(written by Tresta Neil taken from notes from Thomas L. Tyler's CES classes)
Receiving greater understanding from “the virtue of the word” by being aware of common Hebrew literary styles found in the scriptures. There are seven characteristics:
- Clear Statements of Truth from the Lord - often given in the context of the prophet’s personal experience, with the expectation that the truth will be learned and applied.
- The Broader Context - the verses before and after, as well as the circumstances.
- Contrasts describing good and evil or obedient and rebellious.
- Repetition of ideas are used to help define, clarify, emphasize and expand understanding. This repetition is called “parallelisms.”
- Lists are common in individual verses as well as whole chapters like the Ten Commandments.
- Cause-and-Effect Statements are used to stress the importance of responsibility to obey. They show the positive and the negative consequences of choice. Example: “if ye keep the commandments, ye shall prosper in the land.”
- Words with significant symbolism, literal and figurative meanings as well as for their poetic beauty. Example: “Feast upon the words of Christ.”
Benefits of using and applying the Hebrew Thought Patterns
- Recognize the Savior’s loving kindness in teaching us truth and warning us of Satan’s destructive influences.
- Retain passages in a broader context
- Receive Clearer ideas and cross-references between passages
- Remember Meaningful imagery, words and symbols
- Increased ability to liken or apply the scripture to your own life
- “Mental hooks” to “hang” doctrinal insights and ideas onto to help you remember more
- Memorize Scripture passages with ease
The Hebrew Thought Patterns are usually not lost in translation because they are concepts and not rhythmical or rhyming. When seeking out this pattern write the principle thought or Statement of Truth on its own line. Indented below write the repetitions, parallelisms, contrasts or lists. This format helps the reader visually and readily see the relationship of thoughts and ideas. Isaiah 1:16-20 is an example of all of them together.
Isaiah 1:16-20 Uses many patterns:
make you clean;
put away the evil of your doings
from before mine eyes;
cease to do evil;
learn to do well;
relieve the oppressed,
judge the fatherless,
plead from the widow.
Statement of truth using symbol of baptism
(a) clarify repetition of first idea
(b) Restated in contrast for clarity
Emphasizes the Lord’s awareness of us
(b) contrast is repeated and expanded
(a) 4th repetition. Return to the positive meaning
Second statement of truth. Judgment
(a) List of basic righteous functions stated in
(b) three clarifying
(c) thought in parallel repetitions.
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD
though your sins be as scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow
though they be red like crimson,
they call be as wool.
If ye be willing and obedient,
ye shall eat the good of the land:
But if ye refuse and rebel,
ye shall be devoured with the sword:
For the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
Statement of truth
(a) contrasting symbols - color fast dyes
(b) can be removed
(a) repeated contrast - sins stain
(b) the Savior washes then clean
Cause and Effect statement another blessing
Listed in the larger context of above verses.
Cause and Effect statement repeated in contrast
Statements of truth are reaffirmed in the
spirit of testimony.