THE SCOPE OF A PASSAGE MAY BEST BE
DISCOVERED BY ITS STRUCTURE
BY: E. W. BULLINGER
INTRODUCTORY: THE HISTORY AND IMPORTANCE OF THE SUBJECT.
Every Word of God is pure; and His words, like all His works, are perfect. Perfect in order, perfect in truth, perfect in the use of number, perfect in structure.
“The works of Jehovah are great: sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.“ (Ps. 111:2)
Those who seek out His works find wondrous treasures; and see perfection, whether revealed by the telescope or the microscope. Neither of these exhaust those wonders. Both are only relative, and limited by human powers of sight.
It is the same with that most wonderful of all His works-His WORD. Use what powers of human intellect we may, we find that we know only “in part” (1 Cor. 13:9). Pursue any line of truth as far as our human minds can go, and we come to a wall of adamant, which we can neither mount over, pierce through, nor pass round; we return baffled, but solemnized by the fact that we know “in part.”
We shall not be surprised therefore to find literary perfection as well as spiritual perfection. For there is perfection of literary form, as well as perfection of spiritual truth.
The correspondence between parallel lines must always have been visible even on the surface to any one who carefully observed the Scriptures even as literary compositions.
Josephus,’ Philo Judwus, Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, Isidore, among the Ancients, professed to have discovered metres in the Hebrew original. They were followed by others among modern scholars, some of whom agreed with them, while others refuted them.
In spite of Bishop Lowth’s Larger and Shorter Confutations, which showed that all efforts to discover the rhymes and metres which characterize common poetry must be fruitless, some few writers have persevered in such attempts even to the present day.
“Bishop Lowth was the first to put the whole subject on a better and surer foundation; reducing the chaos of mediaeval writings to something like order. His works were based on one or two who had preceded him, and had laid the foundations on which he built with such effect that he came to be universally recognized and appealed to as the ultimate and classical authority in these matters.”‘
But, as we have said, Bishop Lowth built on the foundations laid by others.
Abravanel, a learned Jew of the fifteenth century, and Azariah de Rossi 3 in the sixteenth century, were the first to demonstrate and illustrate the phenomena exhibited in the parallel lines of Holy Scripture.
Azariah de Rossi published, in 1574-5, in Mantua, his celebrated work, which he called Meur Enayim, or, The Light of the Eyes. It was a remarkable work and almost an encyclopedia of biblical literature in itself. Several of its chapters have been translated and published separately, in Latin and English. One chapter (ch. Ix.) was sufficient to kindle Bishop Lowth’s enthusiasm; and he translated it in his Preliminary Dissertation to his last great work, his translation of Isaiah (London, 1833). But, before this, Lowth had already used De Rossi’s wonderful work to such purpose that in 1753 he published his Praelections on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews. This caused quite a sensation in the biblical world, and soon became of European fame.
Bishop Jebb, Sacred Literature, p. 15.
2 Rabbi Bon Isaac ben Jehudah, a celebrated Spanish-Jewish statesman, philosopher, theologian, and commentator, born 1437. His commentaries anticipate mach of what has been advanced as new by modern theologians (Kitt.o, Enc. Bib. article by C. D. G.).
3 e z.„.:ah Min H:,-adnn;,n- as the Jews call him, was born in Mantua, 1513.
Meanwhile Christian Schoettgen (born 187) had published in 1733-42 his Horce Hebraicce et Tatlmudicae (2 vols.4to), at Dresden and Leipzig; Bishop Lowth does not appear to have known of this work, for it anticipates him, and under the heading “Exergasia Sacra” it lays down the very doctrine which it remained for Lowth to improve and elucidate. Schoettgen lays down ten canons, and he illustrates each with three examples.
Bishop Jebb (born 1775 at Drogheda) published his Sacred Literature in London, 1820: and, until Thomas Boys began to write in 1824, Jebb’s work had remained the last word on the subject. It was a review of Lowth’s work and “an application of the principles so reviewed” to the illustration of the New Testament.
But both these works of Bishops Lowth and Jebb were almost entirely confined to the verbal correspondences in parallel lines; and never proceeded beyond short stanzas; and, even then, did not rise beyond what Lowth called “paralbelism” and Jebb called “Sacred Composition.”
It was reserved for Thomas Boys to raise the whole subject on to a higher level altogether, and to lift it out of the literary parallelism between words and lines; and to develop it into the correspondence between the subject matter and truth of the Divine Word.
In 1824 Thomas Boys soon followed up Bishop Jebb by publishing his Tactics Sacra, and in 1827-30 his Key to the Book of Psalms.’
While the successive works of Bishops Lowth and Jebb were enthusiastically and generally received, yet the works of Thomas Boys not only had to fight their way through much opposition, but are now practically unknown to Biblical students. Whether it is because they afford such a wonderful evidence of the supernatural and miraculous in the Bible, and such a proof of the Divine Authorship of the Word of God, that they are therefore the special object of attack by the enemies of that Word (both Satanic and human) He alone knows. But so it is.
1 This was only a description of his principles of Correspondence, which he applied to some sixteen Psalms. It was the privilege of Dr. Bullinger to edit Thomas Boys’ manuscript; and, from pencilled notes in Boys’s Interleaved Ilebrew Bible (Bootliroyd’s Edition with Commentary, to complete and publish, in 1890, the whole of the Psalms with a Preface, and Memoir by his friend the Rev. Sydney Thelwall (who had been a personal friend of Boys), then Vicar of Westleigh, North Devon. An Introduction and Appendix were added by Dr. Bullinger as editor. This work was called A Key to the Book of Palms to preserve a continuity with Boys’s own title.
Bishop Jebb, however, we are thankful to say, in the Second Edition of his Sacred Literature (1831), does recognize Boys’ work in a note on page 74. He says, “Since the publication of Sacred Literature, this peculiarity of composition has been largely and happily illustrated, in his Tactics Sacra, by the Rev. Thomas Boys.”
In 1851 Richard Baillie Roe made a great effort to revive the subject by publishing An Analytical Arrangement of the Holy Scriptures according to the principles developed under the name of Parallelism in the writings of Bishop Lowth, Bishop Jebb, and the Rev. Thomas Bobs.
This appears to have shared the same fate as all the others. Roe’s book gives us too much as well as too little. It gives too much of dry analysis, and too little of the end for which it is made. Moreover, it is not improved by departing from Boys’s simplicity; and serves only to complicate the subject by adding much that is arbitrary in arrangement. It may be said of Roe’s method, that what is true is not new; and what is new is no improvement.
The facts being as thus stated, it shows that the subject has either not yet been grasped nor understood by Bible students; or, that it makes too much for the Inspiration and Divine Origin and Authority of the Word of God; and that there are spiritual powers, working with the human, whose one great object is to make the Word of God of none effect (Eph. 6:12 and 17).
And yet, we may say that, no more powerful weapon has yet been placed in our hands outside that Word, which is “the Spirit’s sword.” It affords a wondrous proof of Inspiration; it gives us a clearer and more comprehensive view of the scope of the Scriptures, than the most learned and elaborate commentaries can ever hope to do; and it is capable of even turning the scale in doubtful, doctrinal, and critical questions.
By its means the student is led to views and truths, and reflections, which, without it, would never have occurred to him. And it is not too much to say that until the Correspondences of the Biblical Structure are duly recognized we shall never get a correct translation or a true interpretation of many passages which are to this day dark and confused in both our Versions, the R. V. as well as in the AV
Preaching on another subject, Bishop Lowth truthfully and feelingly observed that “It pleased God, in His unsearchable wisdom, to suffer the progress of the Reformation to be stopped mid-way; and the effects of it to be greatly weakened by many unhappy divisions among the reformed.”‘
The same may be said of the Law of Correspondence in the Structure of the Word of God, so wonderfully discovered and developed; and yet, needing today almost to be rediscovered, and certainly to be developed in its application to the whole Word of truth.
Parts of the world, remaining yet unexplored, are eagerly sought out without stint of labour or money. Would that the same zeal could be seen applied in the interest of this great subject.
THE PRINCIPLES GOVERNING THE STRUCTURE OF SCRIPTURE.
Having said thus much on the History and Importance of the Structure of Scripture, it is necessary that we should present an account and description of it in some kind of order more or less complete.
We do not propose to wade through all the Divisions and Subdivisions, which have been suggested or laid down in connection with Parallelism as it relates to Lines. Our general object is to understand the Word of truth; and our special object is to consider how we may, by its means, arrive at the scope or subject of a particular passage.
The laws, which govern this Parallelism of lines we will re-state as briefly as may be consistent with clearness. The main principles are as follows:
Parallel Lines are:
(1) COGNATE’ or GRADATIONAL, where the same thought is expressed in different or progressive terms:
“Seek ye Jehovah, while He may be found;
Call ye upon Him, while He is near.”- (Isa. 55:8)
1 Sermons and Remains of Robert Lowth, D.D., p. 78.
2 This is Bishop Jebb’e improvement of Bishop Lowth’s word “synonymous, as including different as well as practically equivalent terms.
2) ANTITHETIC or OPPOSITE, where the terms or subjects are set in contrast:
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” – (Prow. 27:6.)
(3) SYNTHETIC, or CONSTRUCTIVE, where the terms or subjects correspond in a similar form of construction, either as equivalent or opposite. (As in Ps. 19:7-10. Isa. 44:28-28.) It discriminates and differentiates between the thoughts, as well as the words; building up truth by layers, as it were, placing one on the other.
“O the happiness of that man,
Who bath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly;
And bath not stood in the way of sinners;
And bath not sat in the seat of the scornful.”
(4) INTROVERTED, where, whatever be the number of lines, the first line is parallel with the last; the second with the penultimate (or next to the last); the third with the antepenultimate (or next but one to the last); and so throughout, until we come to the two corresponding lines in the middle.
This was the discovery of Bishop Jebb ; and could not be seen until a larger number of consecutive lines were examined.
“Make the heart of this people fat,
And make their ears heavy,
And shut their eyes
Lest they see with their eyes,
And hear with their ears
And understand with their heart.”-
(Isa. vi. 10.)
Here, the correspondence is manifest.
It was, however, as we have said, reserved for Thomas Boys to lift the whole study out of the sphere of words and lines; and see the Law of Correspondence between subjects and subject-matter. Instead of occupying us with lines he bade us look at what he designated members. These members consisted of verses, and whole paragraphs. And the larger paragraphs were soon seen to have their own peculiar structure’ or expansions.
This brings us to the consideration of what we have called the Structure of Scripture.
Most of our readers will be acquainted with the practice of marking their Bibles by ruling lines connecting the same word or words as they recur on the same or the adjoining page. The words recur, because the subject recurs; and the Law of Correspondences not only explains the practice of. Such Bible markings, but shows why it can be done.
The principles and phenomena of the Laws of Correspondence are exceedingly simple, however perplexing they may appear to the eye at first sight. A little attention will soon make all clear to the mind as well as to the eye.
There are practically only two ways in which the subject is repeated:
1. By Alternation.
2. By Introversion.
This is where two (or more) subjects are repeated alternately.
(a) We call it Simple Alternation where there are only two subjects each of which is repeated in alternate lines. Thus
A | ———————
Here, the letters are used quite arbitrarily, and merely for the convenience of reference. Thus, the subject in the passage marked with an Italic letter (A) is the same as the subject in the passage marked with the corresponding Roman letter (A) ; while the B subject is the same as the B subject, the similar Roman and Italic letters indicating their similar, opposite and contrasted, or common subject.
1 The reader will find further elucidation on this subject in Figures of Speech, by the same author.
(b) Where the two subjects are repeated more than once we call it Repeated Alternation, and indicate it thus
And so on: all the members marked A corresponding in subject; and the members marked B corresponding in like manner. There is no limit to this repetition.
(c) Where there are more than two subjects alternating then we call it Extended Alternation; and there will be as many pairs, or sets of members, as there are subjects (unless, of course, these are repeated, when it would be a Repeated Extended Alternation):
This is where the subjects are repeated, not in alternation, but in introversion; i.e. from opposite ends. In this case there will be as many subjects as there are pairs of introverted members. Suppose we have an example of four subjects. This will give us eight members, in which the 1st will correspond with the 8th; the 2nd with the 7th; the 3rd with the 6th; and the 4th with the 5th. Thus:
Now, with these few simple facts and phenomena, it is possible to have a very great variety. For they are practically unlimited, and can be combined in so many ways, and in such varying numbers, that there seems no end to the variety. But, all conform to the above simple laws, in which there is no exception.
EXAMPLES OF EACH PRINCIPLE
iii. . EXAMPLES OF EACH PRINCIPLE
We will give an example of each kind: premising (1) that 1- indicates the first part of a verse, -1 the latter part, and -1- a middle part; (2) that all the larger members have their own special Structures, in which the Correspondences of each may be expanded and exhibited.
We give the examples from the Psalms because they are not encumbered with the human chapter divisions.
A | 1-4-. The Heavens.
B| -4, 6. In them “The Sun.”
A| 7-10. The Scriptures.
B| 11-14. In them “Thy Servant.”
A1| 1, 2. Praise promised. From me, to Jehovah Himself.
B1| 3. Praise offered.
A2| 4-7. Praise promised. From others and me for Jehovah’s works.
B2| 8, 9. Praise offered.
A3| 10-12. Praise promised. From others, and His works, for Jehovah’s kingdom.
B3| 13-20. Praise offered.
A4| 21. Praise promised from me and others, to Jehovah Himself.
Introversion and Extended Alternation Combined.
A| 1-7. Exhortation to praise.
B| 8-12. Basis of praise. Covenant in promise.
C a |13. Their journeyings.. d ~ 17-22.
b | 14, 15. Their prosperings
c | 16. Their affliction
d | 17-22 Mission of deliverance Joseph.
C a | 23. Their journeyings.
b | 24. Their prosperings.
c | 25. Their affliction.
d | 26-41. Mission of deliverance. Moses and Aaron
B | 42-45-. Basis of praise. Covenant performed.
A | -45. Exhortation to praise.
In order to discover the structure of a particular passage it is necessary that we begin to read the portion of Scripture very carefully, and note the subject. We mark it A | -.
We read on until the subject changes, and we note and indent it thus B | -.
So far there can be no difficulty. But when we come to the next change we may find either a third subject, in which case we must further indent it and mark it C | -, or, we shall find the first subject again (as in Ps. xix. above). If it be the latter, then we know that we are going to find an alternation, (and this, either simple as in Ps. xix. above, or repeated as in Ps. cxlv. above), and we must mark it A | – and put it beneath the A | -. If it is a repetition of the second subject, then we know that it is going to be an Introversion, and must mark it B | – and place it under the B | -. Let us take, as a working example, “The Prophecy of Zacharias,” in Luke i. 68-79; this being a passage of Scripture complete in itself, and not a human or arbitrary division.
We read verse 68 with the object of finding and noting its subjects:-” Blessed be the Lord God of Israel ; for he hath visited and redeemed his people.” Here, the subject may be either “Visited ” or ” Redeemed.
“So we give the place of honor to the former of these two words, and write it down, thus :
A | 68. Visitation.
We then read the next verse, “And hath raised up a horn, of salvation, for us in the house of his servant David.” Here there can be no doubt that the subject is Salvation. This we must mark “B,” and set it down, indented, thus
B 169. Salvation.
So far all is clear. But we know not, as yet, what the subject of the third member is to be. If it is Visitation we must set it down under “A” and mark it with an italic “A.” Then we read slowly on:-“As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began.” It is manifest that we have, as yet, no repetition of either of the subjects in “A” or “B.” If it had been that of “A,” it would be a Simple or Repeated Alternation. If it had been that of “B,” we should know that it was going to be an Introversion. But, it is a fresh subject, which is clearly, “Prophets.” So we must mark it ” C,” and write it down, indenting it still more, thus
C | 70. Prophets.
Even now, there is nothing to tell us what the Structure is going to be. So far as we can see, it may be an Extended Alternation by the repetition of “A,” “B,” and “C” ; or it may be an Introversion to be marked ” C,” “B,” and “A.” So we must read on:-” That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us.” Here, we still have no Repetition,: but we find a new subject, which is clearly “Enemies.”
So we must mark it “D,” and write down (still further indenting it) thus:
D | 71. Enemies.
If the subject is a Repetition of any of the above subjects, we know that we are going to have an Alternation of some kind, or an Introversion. So we must still read on:-” To perform the mere promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant.” Here, there can be no doubt that we have again a new subject, and that it must be Covenant. So we put it down, as before, and still further indent it, thus
E | 72. The Covenant.
We can now be sure that we are going to have either a very Extended Alternation or an Introversion. So we must still read on, closely scanning every word, in order to get the clue. We find it in the next verse (v. 73):- ” The oath which he sware to our father Abraham.” Here, at length, we get one of our subjects repeated, as we were bound to do before long. It is the subject of “E,” where the word “Covenant” is repeated in the synonymous word “Oath,” thus indicating the sureness and certainty of the Covenant. We must mark this “E,” and write it down under the “E,” thus
E | 73. The Oath.
All we have to do now is to read on, and we soon discover that we have an Introversion, of great beauty, which we may now easily complete and set out, as follows
The song of Zacharias (Luke i. 68-79).
A | 68. Visitation.
B | 69. Salvation.
C | 70. Prophets.
D | 71. Enemies.
E | 72. The Covenant.
E | 73. The Oath.
D | 74, 75. Enemies.
C | 76. Prophet.
B | 77. Salvation.
A | 78, 79. Visitation.
By practice and observation we shall soon surmount the initial difficulties; and in course of time the study and formation of structures will become increasingly easy and happy work.
Advantages of Structure
10. THE ADVANTAGES AND IMPORTANCE OF THE STRUCTURES WILL BE SEEN
(a) In telling us what a particular passage of Scripture is all about. In other words, what is the Scope or the Subject of the passage we are studying.
(b) This will give us the key to the meaning which we are to put upon the words which are employed (as we saw under Canon L).
(c) In a case of doubt, the subject which is clearly stated in one of the members will inform us as to what it must be in the corresponding member, where it may not be so clearly stated.
(d) As the sense generally reads on from one member to its corresponding member, it will practically place the intervening member or members in a parenthesis. We shall therefore have to read on from “A” to “A” and from “B” to “B,” etc., in order to get connected sense, instead of apparent confusion. This may be seen from any of the above examples, especially Ps, cv. But we may append another beautiful example
Hebrews i., ii.
A | 1-2-. God speaking.
B | i.-2-14. The Son. God. Better than Angels.
A | ii. 1-4. God speaking.
B | ii. 5-18. The Son. Man. Lower than Angels.
Here, ch. 2:1 (“A”) reads on from i. 2- (“A”), and ch. 2: 5 (” B “) reads on from ch. i. 14 (” B “).
(e) Corroborative evidence is sometimes thus obtained for the support or otherwise of a various reading.
V. ILLUSTRATIONS OF THESE ADVANTAGES.
But the chief importance of this branch of our subject lies in the fact that the Structure gives us the Scope, and the Scope will give us the key to the meaning of the words.
It will be interesting if we now apply the principle involved in this our Second Canon to our First Canon, and to the same passages there considered. We shall thus see how the Structure of the passages which furnished the several illustrations under Canon I, does indeed give us their Scope: which, in turn, gives us the meanings of the words in 2 Pet. 2:20, 21 and 1 Pet. 3:18-20.
(a) “Private interpretation” (2 Pet. 1:20, 21). As the Epistles come to us as a whole, without division into chapters, we must not be guided by these human divisions at all in looking for the Structure; neither may we arbitrarily take a few verses, and say: these form a member by themselves. We mast show that these verses in question stand in their own special place and have their own proper correspondences in the Epistle as a whole. In looking, therefore, for the structure of 2 Pet. i. 20 we must first find the Structure of the whole Epistle, and see where this particular verse comes in; so that we may know of what subject it forms part; and with what other member it has its correspondence.
The 2nd Epistle of Peter as a whole.
(Combined Introversion and Extended Alternation.)
A | i. 1-4. Epistolary. Introduction. Grace and knowledge to be increased. Christ,. “God and Saviour.”
B | i. 5-11. Exhortations and Reasons.
C | a | i. 12-15. Peter.
b | i. 16-21. Apostles and prophets.
c | ii. The wicked, etc.
C | a | iii. 1. Peter.
b.| iii. 2. Prophets and apostles.
c | iii. 3-13. The wicked, etc.
B | iii. 14-17. Exhortations and reasons.
A | iii. 18. Epistolary. Conclusion. Grace and knowledge to be increased. Christ, “Lord and Savior.”
We thus see that ch. i. 20 forms part of a larger member (marked “b”) which has for its subject “Apostles and prophets.”
This one member (b, i. 16-21) is capable of a wonderful expansion, from which we see that it consists of two distinct parts: Apostolic witness (vv. 16-18); and, the Prophetic word (vv. 19-21).
These two, on careful examination, are seen to have a similar construction: Alternately negative and positive.
2 Peter i. 18-21.
(Simple Alternation Combined with Introversion.)
The Apostolic Witness (vv, 16-18).
b | D d | 1-16. What it was NOT. “Not cunningly devised (or self-originated) Myths.”
e | 1-16. What it WAS. A vision of the power and coining of Christ (Comp. Matt. xvi. 28, and xvii. 1-5)
E | 1-17, 18. How it CAME. Voice came from the excellent glory. Voice came from heaven. “Heard” and ” made known.”
The Prophetic Word (vv. 19-21).
D | e | 1-19. What it IS. A light to be well-heeded till the Day of Christ’s coming shall dawn;
and He, the Day Star, shall arise.
d | 1- 20. What it is NOT. Not of its own reveal went. Not self-originating.
E | 1-21. How it CAME, Not brought by the Will of Man; but brought by pneuma hagion, or “power from on
high.” “Beard,” and “spoken.”
From this we see the obvious contrast standing out very clearly between the self-originated myths that came by “the will of man”; and the Divine and heavenly Visions and revelations sent and received, and seen and heard from God in heaven. This revelation is further seen to concern Christ’s Coming. In “e” it is the Vision of it, as fore-shown in the Transfiguration: in “e” it is the grand reality of it, of which the Transfiguration was only a typical Vision. The former was believed on the Apostolic Witness: the latter was to be believed on the testimony of the Prophetic Word.
Further, the great subject, as to How the Apostolic Witness and the Prophetic Word came is strongly emphasized by the repetition of the same verb (phero), to bring or bear. We have it twice in each of the two corresponding members (E and E), showing us how the human Witness and the Divine Word were both. brought to us from heaven; and did not originate from any man or men on earth, as did the cunningly-devised myths.
It is this fact which stamps the Apostasy of the present day. Those who profess to be in the Apostolic succession turn away their ears from the prophetic Word; and, while they declare that many of its records are myths, are themselves “turned unto” the myths` of man’s devising.
We may add, in order to complete this passage, the following Expansions, verbatim
The Expansion of D (2 Peter 1: 19, 20).
The Prophetic Word.
D f | And we have more sure, the prophetic word (written prophecy);
g | to which ye do well to take heed,
h | as to a light shining in a dark place,
h | until the day dawn, and the day star arise,
g | in your hearts;
f | this knowing first, that no prophecy of scripture came of its own disclosure.
Here, we observe, that the subject of “f” and ” f ” is the Prophecy. In “ f ” it is spoken of as a whole; in ” f ” in part, a particular prophecy. In “g ” and “g ” we have Exhortation as to our duty with regard to it. In “g” we are exhorted to take heed to it; and in “g” how we are to take heed -viz., in our hearts. Lastly, in “h” and “h” we have the Prophetic Word again. In “h” its character (a light in a dark place); and in “h” its duration and object (until the day dawn, etc.). Then in verse 21 we have the reason given.
The Expansion of E (2 Peter 1: 21).
E i | For not by the will of man
k | was prophecy, at any time, borne in,
k | but by the Holy Spirit, borne along,
i | spake the holy men of God.
Here again we have in “i” and “i” man’s relation to the Prophetic Word ; in “i” negative, in “i” positive. While in “k” and “k” we have its origin; in “k’,’ negative, and in “k” positive.
The above two Structures may be now explained by the following Key
THE KEY To D AND E.
The Prophetic Word. (2 Peter 1: 19, 20.)
D f | The prophetic word as a whole.
g | Exhortation (general) to take heed to it.
h | Its character: a light in a dark place.
h | Its duration: until the Day dawn.
g | Exhortation (particular): to take heed to it in our hearts.
f | Prophecy in particular.
The Reason. (2 Peter 1: 21.)
E i | Man’s part in it.
k | How it did not come. } Negative.
k | How it did come
i | Man’s part in it. } Positive.
Thus the scope, or great subject, of 2 Peter 1: 16-21 is gathered from its structure; and it is seen to be, not what Scripture means, but whence it came: and it is concerned not with the interpretation of Scripture, but with its origin, as already shown above (pp. 186-188).
(b) “The spirits in prison“ (1 Pet. iii. 18-22). To understand this expression the Structure is necessary to give us the scope of 1 Pet. iii.
Verse 19 does not stand by itself, but forms part of a larger member; and that member has its own Scope, or subject, which will give us the meaning of the expression — “The in-prison spirits.”
This member is not to be arbitrarily delimited, but must be found from
The Structure of 1 Peter as a whole.
(Combined Introversion, and Extended Alternation.)
A | 1: 1, 2. Epistolary.
B |1: 3-12. Introduction. Giving out the great subject. “The End.” Glory, after suffering for a season (oligon).
C | a |1:13-2:10. General Exhortations in view of “the End” 1: 13). Grace to be brought at Revelation of Jesus Christ.
b | 2:11-4:6. Particular Exhortations as to “sufferings” to be followed by “glory” (2: 20; 3:17-22).
C | a | 4:7-19. General Exhortations in view of ” the End.” Joy to be brought at Revelation of Christ’s glory.
b | 5:1-9. Particular Exhortations as to “sufferings” to be followed by “glory” (vs. 1).
B | 5:10, 11. Conclusion. Embodying the great subject. “The End.” Glory after suffering awhile (oligon).
A | 5:12-14. Epistolary.
From this structure it is perfectly clear that the Scope and subject of the whole Epistle is only one. This Scope is given in the words of ch. 3:17. “It is better to suffer for well doing than for evil doing.”
This truth is enforced and illustrated and emphasized again and again throughout the Epistle.
The verses which follow (3:17-4: 6)’ are added as the reason, which is given in proof of this statement of the Scope of this Epistle. The word “FOR” introduces it, and thus tells us that we have arrived at the very kernel of the whole Epistle. Not some passage which we are to explain as best we can and as though we wished it were not there: but which we are to embrace as all-important, and as though it were indispensable, as it is, to the subject of the Epistle.
But here again we must go back; for though we see that these verses (3:17-4: 6) occur in the member ” b,” yet we see also that they form only a part of that member.
It is necessary for us, therefore, to go back, and see whether it is really an integral part, and whether the break in the whole member (2:11-4:6) really does occur at 3: 17.
Expansion of “b” (1 Peter 2:11-4: 8).
b D | 2:11. Exhortations (Personal).
E | 2:12. Calumnies: and how to refute them.
F | 2:13-3:7. Submission to man for the Lord’s sake: “The will of God” (2:15). Reason: ” For ” (2:21), and Example of Christ in His sufferings.
D | 3:8-15. Exhortations (General).
E | 3:18. Calumnies: and how to refute them.
F | 3:17-4: 8. Submission to man for the Lord’s sake: “The will of God” (3:17). Reason: “For” (3:18), and Example of Christ in His glorification.
The Correspondence of these members, each to each, is exceedingly exact and minute. From this we see that the last member F does actually commence with 3:17, the “For” corresponding exactly with the “For” in ch. 2: 21: each “for” introducing the example of Christ.
*[1 we cannot break off at end of ch.3 for ch.4. begins “Forasmuch then;” which shows that it follows in close continuation of ch. Ill.]*
Now we are, at length, in a position to examine the further delimitation of this member F (3:17-4: 6) which is as follows:-
The Reasons for Submission to the Will of God
(1 Peter iii. 17-iv. 6).
(Simple Alternation Combined with Introversion.)
F | G | c | 3:17. Reason for our suffering here, in the flesh, “if the will of God be so.”
d | 3:18-. Reason for Christ’s suffering here as to His flesh, “put to death:’
H | 3:18-22. Christ’s glory which followed. (Resurrection, Triumph, Glory, and Dominion).
G d | 4:1-. Reason for Christ’s suffering here, in the flesh.
c | 1-5. Our suffering here in the flesh, at the “will of man,” by “the will of God.”
H | 4: 6. Reason for our glory which shall follow. Though judged in the flesh ac-cording to the “will of man,” we shall live again in resurrection according to the “will of God” (Compare v. 19).
Here we see the beautiful contrast between our suffering and Christ’s; our glory and Christ’s. This leads us up, naturally, to Christ’s example, which follows verses 18-22, with which we are now concerned.
We see, from the above Structure, that these particular verses are located in the member “H,” the subject of which is the Example of Christ in His glorification, corresponding with His example in ch. 2: 21, which was Christ in His suffering.
In H (ch.3:18-22) the two examples are combined in order to connect the sufferings with the glory; and to show that Christ’s glorious triumph which followed.
This is the triumph referred to in Col. 2:14, 15, where, having “spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”
The Triumph of Christ (H, 1 Peter iii. 18-22).
(Introversion and Extended Alternation.)
H | J | e | 3:18. The Resurrection of Christ.
f | 19. Result. (poreutheis), having gone (to Tartarus, 2 Pet. ii. 4) He made proclamation of His Triumph to the in-prison spirits or angels.
g | 20 The insubjection of spirits in the days of Noah (Gen. 6. 2 Pet. 2: 4. Jude 8).
K | -20. Noah saved then. Ark the type. Material water the means.
K | -21-. We saved now. Baptism the Antitype. Spiritual water the means.
J | e | -21. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
f | 22-. Result. having gone into heaven, is on the right hand of God.
g | 22. The subjection of angels, authorities, and powers.
Here we come to the direct proof that verses 18-22 have for their subject the “glory” of Christ, which followed on His “sufferings,” forming the reason why “it is better to suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing.”
We see also the importance of the Structure in giving us the interpretation: for the “spirits” in verse 20 are shown to be ” angels ” in verse 22 : the subjection of the former being set in contrast with the latter.
Thus we have another example of our second great principle that the scope, or subject, of a passage is to be sought for in its Structure.
We have also some evidence as to the Divine origin of Scripture. For, these Structures are altogether beyond the power of “unlearned and ignorant men” such as Peter was (Acts iv. 18), and are the best possible proofs we can have of Divine Inspiration.
(c) “Testament” and Covenant (Heb. 9:15-M).-This will furnish us with an illustration of what we have already said on this passage above (pages 195–197).
There we have shown how the meaning of certain words in this passage is determined by its Scope. Now we have to show how the scope and, therefore, the interpretation of the passage is determined by its Structure.
It is more profitable to show this in the case of passages we have already dealt with above, than to seek for other examples, which would only divert our thoughts instead of concentrating them on the further elucidation of passages already in our minds.
When we say that Heb. 9: 15-23 forms a distinct member by itself, the burden of proof devolves upon us; for, we may not make this arbitrary statement: we must show that it is so in fact, and that it has its own separate place in
The Epistle to the Hebrews as a whole.
(Introversion and Simple Alternation.)
A | i., ii. Doctrinal Introduction.
B | 3:1-4. 13. The Mission of Christ.
C | 4: 14-16. General Application. “Having therefore”) Boldness.
B | 5:1-10. 18. The Priesthood of Christ.
C | 10:19-12. 29. Particular Application. (” Having therefore”) Boldness.
A | 13. Practical Conclusion.
We are now in a position to see where our particular passage (ch. 9: 15-23) comes in.
It is in the member marked B (ch. 5:1-10. 18) that we find it.
We have to see, next, what particular part of that member it occupies, before we can discover its Scope.
Having thus given the Structure of the Epistle to the Hebrews as a whole, we are now in a position to see where the particular passage which we are considering comes in.
We have before remarked that we cannot be guided in this matter by the chapter-breaks, which are entirely and only of human authority, which is no authority at all.
In the case of an Epistle, we are compelled therefore to begin with the Epistle as a whole before we can discover the position of a particular passage or verse.
The Structure of this member B is based on the same model on which the Epistle itself, as a whole, is framed; and it is as follows:
The Priesthood of Christ
(B, Heb. 5:1-10. 18)
(Introversion, combined with Simple Alternation.)
B | a | 5: 1-4. The Nature of Priesthood in General. (pas gar) ” for every . . .”
b | 5: 5-10. Christ called by God after the order of Melchisedec.
c | 5:11-6: 20. Digression, concerning Melchi sedec as the Type.
b | 7. Christ called by God after the order of Melchisedec.
c | 8: 1, 2. Summation, concerning Christ as the Antitype.
a | 8:3-10 18. The Efficacy of Christ’s Priesthood inparticular. (pas gar) “for every…”
Now we see that the verses we are seeking (Heb. 9: 15-23) farm part of a larger member, viz., Heb. 8: 3-10. 18, and that, in the above expansion, it is the member marked “a,” which is the last member of the above Structure; and further, we see that its subject is the Efficacy and Superiority of Christ’s Sacrifice as compared with the Priesthood of Aaron under the Law.
All we have to do now is to get the Scope of this member (a, ch. 8: 3-10. 18) by observing its own special Structure.
We have said above that all these larger members have their own peculiar construction; but we must not be tempted nor turned aside from our main purpose; we must confine our attention, in each case, to the particular members involved in our search: and continue this until we narrow the whole question down to the passage we are examining, and are able to locate the verses (ch. 9: 15-23) and thus discover their scope.
We are now in a position to do this by expanding the member “a.” above, which we shall find to be as follows:
The Efficacy and Superiority of Christ’s Priesthood.
(a, Heb, viii. 3-x. 18).
a | d | 8: 3-6. Christ’s Priesthood. “A more excellent ministry,” “a better covenant” on “better promises.”
e | 8: 7-13. The Old and New Covenants compared and contrasted.
f | 9: 1-5. The Earthly Sanctuary a copy of the Heavenly Pattern,
g | 9: 6-10. The Offerings.
d | 9: 11-14. Christ’s Priesthood. “A greater and more perfect Tabernacle.” “His own blood.”
e | 9: 15-23. The Old and New Covenants compared and contrasted.
f | 9: 24. The Heavenly Sanctuary the pattern of the Earthly Copy.
g | 9:25-10. 18. The Offerings.
Here we see that our special member which we are tracking out is found in that marked “e,” ch.9: 15-23. Thus, at length, we learn that its subject is The Old and New Covenants Compared and Contrasted.
This settles its Scope for us. All that remains for us to do now is to confirm it by discovering its own Structure and seeing whether this be really the case.
To see the full force of this it will be well to look also at the member with which it stands in Correspondence, viz., “e,” ch. 8: 7-13, which is an Introversion. It also follows the model of the Epistle as a whole.
The Old and New Covenants Compared and Contrasted.
(e, Heb, viii. 7-13.)
(Introversion and Simple Alternation.)
e | h | 7, 8. The First Covenant Faulty.
i | 9. The New Covenant (Negative). Not the same in the making and material.
k | 10. The New Covenant (Positive). Spiritual.
i | 11. The New Covenant (Negative). Not the same in its result and effect.
k | 12. The New Covenant (Positive). Spiritual,
h |13. The First Covenant Evanescent.
Now we are in a position to look at the member with which we are specially concerned, and again we notice that the Structure follows the model of the Epistle as a whole:
The Old and New Covenants Compared and Contrasted,
(e, Heb, ix, 15-23,)
(Introversion and Simple Alternation.)
e | L | 9: 15. The Old Covenant related only to “the promise of the eternal inheritance.”
m | 16. Death necessary for its making.
n |17. Reason for this necessity.
m | 18. Blood necessary for its consecration.
n | 19-23-. Reason for this necessity.
L | 23. The New Covenant related to “the heavenly things themselves.”
It is impossible to miss the great subject of these verses It forbids us to ignore its importance, which is so essential to the whole argument.
To arbitrarily change this subject is to entirely miss its scope, and to be driven to force a meaning into the words and expressions which are quite foreign to their Biblical usage.
(d) “Absent from the Body.”-2 Cor. 5, will furnish us with another illustration of the importance of the Structure in determining the Scope. And we have seen, under Canon L, the necessity of the Scope to give us the meaning of the word, and to show us how indispensable it is for a right understanding of the whole.
The Structure will show us how much we lose by the break between the fourth and fifth chapters of the second Epistle to the Corinthians. Chapter v. commences as though it began an entirely fresh subject, whereas it begins with the word “FOR,” which shows that it is the conclusion of what had been begun towards the end of ch. 4. That subject is Resurrection as our blessed hope in view of the perishing of our outward man day by day. As a comforting conclusion it is added, “FOR we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an horse not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens.” This is one of the “things unseen,” and which are “eternal”; at which, and for which, we are to “look.”
Where the real literary and logical breaks occur can be discovered only from the Structure.
As a matter of fact, 2 Cor. 5. forms part of a member which runs from 2 Cor. 3. 1-6. 10; but we must not make such an arbitrary statement without producing the evidence, so that others may judge for themselves as to its accuracy.
To prove this we must first give
The Structure of 2 Cor, as a whole.
A | 1: 1, 2. Salutation.
B | a | 1: 3-11. Thanksgiving.
b | 1: 12. Paul’s Ministry.
C | 1:13-2: 13. Epistolary.
B | a | 2: 14-17. Thanksgiving.
b | 3:1-6. 10. Paul’s Ministry.
C | 6:11-13. 10. Epistolary.
A | 8: 11-14. Salutations.
Without going into the exquisite beauties of C and C,’ we note that the small portion in which the expression “Absent from the body” occurs is the member marked b (ch.3:1-6.. 10). We must dissect and expand this member, which will be seen to be as follows
The Character of Paul’s Ministry.
(b, 2 Cor. 3: 1-6. 10.)
b | c | 3: 1-3. Commendation (Positive)
d | 3: 4, 5. Trust in God. God’s Sufficiency.
e | 3:.6-18. The Ministry of the New Covenant.
f | 4:1-5. 11. Support under Afflictions.
c | 5: 12, 13. Commendation (Negative)
d | 5: 14-18-. Love of Christ. All of God.
e | 5:18-6: 2. The Ministry of Reconciliation.
f | 6: 3-10. Approval under Afflictions.
We are thus narrowing down the issue, which is now seen to lie in the member marked “f” (ch. 4:1-5: 11).
The subject of this member is Support under afflictions; and its Structure is a repeated alternation, as follows:
Support under Afflictions.
(2 Cor. 4:1-5. 11.)
f | g1 | 4:1-6. Confidence (Neg.). ” We faint not.”
h1 | 4: 7-15. Grounds. “Earthen vessels.” The working of death in them (iv. 12), with pledge of Resurrection (iv. 14).
g2 | 4: 16-. Confidence (Neg.). ” We faint not.”
h2 | 4:16-5: 5. Grounds. “Earthly house.” The working of afflictions (4: 17), and the working of God, in Resurrection (5: 5).
g3 | 5:6-11 Confidence (Pos.). ” We are confident.”
We need not pursue these expansions further, though we might well do so.
We can see very clearly now, that the wonderful ground of support of Paul and Timothy in their afflictions was the consideration of the “unseen” things, as outweighing the ” things seen”; so that though the ” earthen vessels” of their bodies were dissolved there was the “excellency of the power” of God which would be put forth in Resurrection.
It is thus seen how the break between chapters iv. and v. destroys the connection: in fact, breaks in two the one member, “ha” (ch. 4:16 -5: 5), which has only one subject, viz., Resurrection, as the ground of the confidence, and the reason for not fainting in their labors of ministry.
We might have included this under the head of rightly dividing the Word of truth as to its literary form, as shown by the division into chapters (pages 34, 35). We might also have included it under the heading of the importance of the Scope of a passage (Canon L). We might have included it under the heading of the importance of the Context (see below, Canon III.). It belongs to all three; but considering that the Structure is necessary to the crowning proof, we have given this illustration here
It is little less than a crime for anyone to pick out certain words and frame them into a sentence, not only disregarding the Scope and the context, but ignoring the other words in the verse, and quote the words “absent from the body present with the Lord” with the view of dispensing with the hope of Resurrection (which is the subject of the whole passage), as though it were unnecessary; and as though “presence with the Lord” is obtainable without it 1
Apart from the doctrine involved, and apart from the teaching of Tradition (true or false), it is a literary fraud thus to treat the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth.
We see therefore, for it must be clear to us, that the Scope of a passage is the key to its words; and that the Structure of a passage is the key to its Scope.
This will show us the importance of our second Canon.
How great must be our loss if we fail to use this key to the wonderful words of God.
Like all His works they bear the minutest searching out.
All the works of God are perfect. And the microscope and telescope can both be used to examine them; though neither of them can ever exhaust the wonders of God’s works. In both directions an increase of the power of the lens will reveal new beauties and fresh marvels.
The Word of God, being one of His works, must have the same phenomena: and nothing exhibits these phenomena like the Study of its Literary Structure.
To us, God’s Word is the greatest and most important of all His works. If we understand all His other works (which no one does or can) and yet know not His Word, our knowledge will not carry us beyond the grave.
But we must not lose sight of the great underlying lesson, and the great outcome of the whole of this subject, which is this: If the external form be so perfect, what must the inward truth be: if the setting be so valuable, how valuable must be the jewel: if the literary order be Divine, how solemn must be the warnings, how important the truth, how faithful the promises, how sure the words of which the Word is made up.
SCOPE OF A PASSAGE MAY BEST BE DISCOVERED BY ITS STRUCTURE [E. W. Bullinger] 1