OceanSide church of Christ

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Parallelism, Parallel Forms, and Repetitions

Victor M. Eskew




A.   One of my instructors at the Memphis School of Preaching used to say:  “Let the Bible be its own best interpreter.”

1.    What he meant is that the Bible often explains itself.  One passage helps to illuminate the meaning of another passage.

2.    One of the figures of speech that we will study today does this.  It is a figure of speech called parallelism.


B.   Understanding figures of speech help us to understand the Bible better.  They also help us to enjoy Bible study much more.


C.   In this lesson, we will be examining parallelisms, parallel forms, and repetitions.


I.             PARALLELISMS


A.   Definition

1.    Two lines form what is seen as a balanced repetition.

2.    The lines are about the same length (called “cola” or “stich”) in which grammar, syntax, form, and stress balance and reinforce one another (www.biblegateway.com).  See Psalm 24:1-2


The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.  For he hath founded it upon the seas, and hath established it upon the floods.


3.    The benefits of parallelism is that it allows us to define terms more precisely (Ps. 33:8).


Let the earth fear the Lord:  let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.


B.   There are several types of parallelism.

1.    Synonymous parallelism:

a.    The two lines express the same or similar thoughts.

b.    Psalm 1:5


Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.


2.    Antithetic parallelism

a.    The two lines have contrasting thoughts.

b.    Psalm 1:6


For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous:  but the way of the ungodly shall perish.


3.    Synthetic parallelism

a.    The lines bear some relationship to one another.

b.    There are several types:

a.    A comparison (Ps. 103:13)


Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.

b.    Expansion of the subject matter (Ps. 34:9)


O fear the Lord, ye his saints:  for there is no want to them that fear him.


1)    Both lines talk about “fear.”

2)    The first involves a command; the second states a promise.

4.    Climatic parallelism

a.    The thought slowly advances from line to line.

b.    Psalm 29:1-2


Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength.  Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name….




A.   Definition:  When a group of words have the same flow and one can pick up the rhythm of the text as it is read.


B.   Examples:

1.    The Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-10)


Blessed are the poor in spirit:  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn:  for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness:  for they

     shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful:  for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart:  for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers:  for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake:  for theirs is

     the kingdom of heaven.


2.    Proverbs 3:1-10


Command                                               Promise


Forget not my laws (v. 1)                          For length of days (v. 2)

Let not mercy and truth (v. 3)                            Shalt thou find favour (v. 4)

Trust in the Lord (v. 5)                                      He shall direct (v. 6)

Be not wise (v. 7)                                     It shall be health (v. 8)

Honour with thy substance (v. 9)             Barns be filled (v. 10)




A.   There are many types of repetitions found in the Bible.

1.    Repetition of letters and syllables

2.    Repetition of the same words

3.    Repetition of sentences and phrases


B.   Homeoteleuta:  like endings (I Pet. 1:4)


To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.


1.    Each of the words that describe our inheritance end with the letters “ton” in the Greek language.

2.    It is very difficult to reproduce when translating from one language to another.


C.   Epizeuxis:  repetition of the same word

1.    Common with names:

a.    Abraham, Abraham (Gen. 22:11)

b.    Martha, Martha (Luke 10:41)

c.    Saul, Saul (Acts 9:4)

d.    Jerusalem, Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37)

2.    Sometimes it can be only seen in the Hebrew or Greek

a.    Genesis 7:19 – “greatly, greatly”


And the waters prevailed greatly…


b.    Leviticus 6:12 – “morning, morning”


…and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning…


c.    Isaiah 26:3 – “peace, peace”


Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace…


3.    Anaphora:  like sentence beginnings

a.    He will bless (Ps. 115:12-13)

b.    And without (Hos. 3;4)

c.    The head of (I Cor. 11:3)

d.    To another (I Cor. 12:8-11)


D.   Polysyndeton:  many “ands”

1.    Genesis 43:8


And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones.


2.    Mark 3:31-35

3.    Luke 15:22-24


But the father said to his servant, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:  and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat, and be merry:  for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.  And they began to be merry.




A.   Repetition is one of the major keys to learning.


B.   The Bible repeats things for us in many ways and in many different passages.


C.   As we read and study:

1.    Let’s dwell on the parallelisms.

2.    Let’s take note of the importance of word and phrases repeated by the Holy Spirit.