Since some people refuse to seriously consider Book of Mormon evidence unless it’s in a non-LDS academic sources, I’m happy to help these earnest pursuers of truth by pointing out occasional works that they can read and treasure. In addition to the work by Dr. John Tvedtnes that I mentioned in my last post, a more recent contribution comes from Noel Reynolds. I mentioned this a few weeks ago in comments to one of my posts here, but I should have highlighted it in a post of its own to help those who need peer-reviewed testimonies.
Related to the issue of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon is the Hebrew tool called inclusio,
in which a phrase at the beginning of a passage is mirrored at the end
to mark a section. Interesting insight into a sophisticated case (or 3
related cases) of inclusio in the Book of Mormon is treated by
Reynolds in a peer-reviewed publication: Noel
B. Reynolds (2015). The Gospel according to Mormon. Scottish Journal of Theology, 68, pp 218-234. doi:10.1017/S003693061500006X, available for download at http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/facpub/1479/.
Reynolds’ work reveals some consistent elements in the text regarding the Book of Mormon’s concept of the core doctrine of the Gospel, and the way its authors use inclusio to emphasize it. It’s one of many interesting subtleties in the composition of the text.
Speaking of chiasmus, one of my favorite works related to the Book of Mormon in a non-LDS publication is John Welch’s chapter on chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, included in the ground-breaking book on chiasmus that he edited, in collaboration with some significant scholars and published through a noteworthy publishing house. The reference is: John W. Welch, editor, Chiasmus in Antiquity: Structures, Analyses, Exegesis (Hildesheim, Germany: Gerstenberg Verlag, 1981). This scholarly work in a non-LDS press with non-LDS authors (apart from John) includes a forward from Dr. David Noel
I recommend reading David Noel Freedman’s preface to the scholarly book, Chiasmus in Antiquity, edited by John Welch. The full text of that intriguing book is available free online at the Maxwell Institute. Here is part of what Dr. Freedman has to say:
The more extended uses of chiasm raise further questions. As with much
of literature, especially poetry, ambiguity and obscurity are inherent
in the form and content: chiasm only adds to the uncertainty and
mystery. Scholars now recognize chiasms beyond the simple type described
above, chiasms which involve passages of verse or prose ranging in
length from a few sentences to hundreds of thousands of words. This more
complex form of chiasm is not merely grammatical but structural or
intentional; it systematically serves to concentrate the reader’s or
hearer’s interest on the central expression. The number of such chiastic
constructions which satisfy both sets of criteria: inversion and
balance on the one hand, and climactic centrality on the other, is
substantially less than the simpler mechanical variety. But wherever
they are present, these structures may add novel perspectives and
unexpected dimension to the texts in which they appear.
There is yet a further extension of the term chiasm. Even more difficult
and controversial issues arise when chiasm is defined in terms of
thought and theme, rather than the more visible words and patterns.
Inevitably a large subjective element enters into these discussions, and
the presence or absence of chiasm on this level can become almost a
Scholars, therefore, may range between separated areas of research in
their approach to chiasm. On the one extreme, the phenomenon itself can
be described or defined rigorously, so that it is verifiable and often
self-evident; while in this sense it is part of a deliberate pattern of
composition, it nevertheless leaves the wider world of symbolism and
significance to others. At the other end of the spectrum, definitions
and limits are hard to determine, and speculation is rife; but large
issues of meaning and intention can be raised, and important questions
about the nature and significance of extended literary pieces are
considered. The study of these great chiasms has enormous implications
for analysis and interpretation, but the wider the scope and the more
extended the reach, the less certain the results necessarily become. In
the end, neither approach will escape if carried to extremes.
Only a book with many varieties of presentation can display the present
state of chiastic studies. While a great deal of important work has been
done across the many domains of ancient literature, the study of
ancient literary techniques is still in ferment and flux. A common fund
of axioms and assumptions and a single sure-handed methodology are yet
to be established. The present volume reflects accurately both the
ferment and the progress which is being made on a variety of fronts, and
is all the more to be welcomed for bringing together the results of
research in different literatures of antiquity. The editor is to be
commended for his catholicity and courage, and for his own original
contributions in several domains including a unique treatment of the
Book of Mormon. His introduction to the whole work is indispensable. [emphasis added]
–David Noel Freedman
Dr. Freedman has been called one of the world’s foremost scholars on the Bible. You can also read about him on Wikipedia. He passed away in 2008.
Welch’s book is cited by Roland Meynet in Rhetorical Analysis: An Introduction to Biblical Rhetoric.
Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 256
(Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 392 pp. I don’t
have access to it at the moment, but according to Noel Reynolds,
“Meynet credits BYU’s own John W. Welch, whose 1981 book re-ignited
chiasmus studies and helpfully provided the world of biblical scholars
with the first complete bibliography of chiasmus publications, enabling
contemporary scholars to get a grasp on the extent and quality of the
work that had already been done.”