Literary Structures

  • All large documents contain some kind of structuring
  • Ancient ways of structuring are very different to modern practices
    • Modern: chapters, subtitles, paragraphs, introduction & conclusion
    • Ancient: narrative techniques, inclusio, parallelism, inverse parallel structures, etc.
  • Logic:
    1. Context is one of the most vital factors in determining meaning
    2. The most important aspect of the context of a passage is its role in the argument of the book.
    3. The structure of a book gives great help in determining the flow of argument:
      • both at the level of the whole book
      • and within smaller sections
    4. Therefore structure is of great exegetical importance.
  • Structure of the book of Judges
  • Colossians 3:1-6
  • Structure of the book of Acts
  • Structure of Galatians 5:13-6:5 (pdf document)
  • Handout on structure of Luke 18:18-30

Two valuable papers:

  • C. A. Smith, The Leaning Tower—Foundational Weaknesses if Contemporary Chiastic Studies, (Toronto: ETS, 2002)
  • A. Boyd Luter And Richard O. Rigsby An Adjusted Symmetrical Structuring Of Ruth, JETS 39:1 (March 1996) p. 16

Structure of the book of Judges

Prologue [1:1-2:5]
Israel fails to purge the land
The Pattern of rebellion & salvation
Example of the pattern: Othniel
Ehud—the lone hero from Benjamin/Dan
  Deborah—woman (looked down on by men but valued by God) from Joseph’s tribes
    Gideon and Abimelech—the ideal judge and his son, the worst judge
  Jephthah—(social outcast by men, but valued by God) from Joseph’s tribes
Samson—lone hero from Benjamin/Dan
Micah & the Danites: Israel just as idolatrous as the Canaanites
Gibeah: Israel just as immoral as the Canaanites

The Pattern

  1. [2:10-13] They forget about God’s goodness and forsake him
  2. [2:14] God allows them to be defeated and oppressed
  3. [2:15] They are very distressed
  4.         and eventually cry out to God for help
  5. [2:18a] God had compassion on them and sent them a deliverer (judge)
  6. [2:18b] They served God as long as the judge lived

The pattern can be seen clearly with Othniel

Colossians 3:1-6

1. If then you were raised with Christ,

          the things above seek, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.

2.       the things above set your mind on, not on things on the earth.

3. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.


4. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

5.      Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth:

          fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

6. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience

Structure of the book of Acts




Spirit’s Action


Concluding statement of growth




Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Jerusalem (no persecu­tion)

Acts 2:46-47 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.




Acts 3:6 Then Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk."

Jerusalem and the towns around (5:16)

Acts 6:7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.




Acts 6:10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. (Moved Stephen into controversy, leading directly to persecution)

Judea including Samaritans

Acts 9:31 Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.




Acts 10:19 While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are seeking you.

Acts 10:44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.

Gentiles in Judea

Acts 12:24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.





Acts 13:2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, "Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."


Acts 16:5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.





Acts 16:6-9 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."


Acts 19:20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.





Acts 19:21 When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome."

Journey to Rome

Acts 28:30-31 Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

Andrew Fountain (2004)

Inverted Parallel Structure in Galatians 5:13-6:5

Structure of Galatians 5:13-6:5 (pdf document)