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The Scope of a Passage May Best Be 
Discovered by Its Structure

By E.W. Bullinger


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. cxi. 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. xiii. 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 recognised 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's 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's 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. vi. 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 to-day 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.


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. Iv. 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. xxvii. 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. xix. 7-10. Isa. xliv. 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."
Psalm 1:1

(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.

1. Alternation.

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

A1 |--------------------

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):



2. Introversion.

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.