PARALLELISM IN THE BOOK OF MORMON
Parallelism is a fundamental feature of biblical Hebrew composition, appearing in many different varieties and contexts. Don Parry has recently completed an impressive research effort, identifying and classifying many poetic parallel passages in the Book of Mormon.
In 1824, Philip Sarchi wrote an Essay on Hebrew Poetry in which he described the poetry of the Bible as "superior to all others. . . . As it has no model," he asserted, "so it will find no successful imitators."
In view of a major research effort now reported as a F.A.R.M.S. Working Paper, Sarchi's words boost our appreciation of literary style in the Book of Mormon. Don Parry, currently a graduate student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, has finished the first stage of a project funded by the Foundation to study parallelisms in the Book of Mormon.
Hebrew poetry can be subtle and distinctive. Imitating it is not an easy task. Parry reports, however, that the Book of Mormon contains a full array of poetic parallelisms that are "in all respects equal in value and style to biblical poetic verse."
Parry utilizes the tools and classifications developed by Greek rhetoricians and by such contemporary scholars as Adele Berlin, Robert Alter, Wilfred Watson, and David Noel Freedman. He demonstrates elegant examples of antimetabole, simple alternates, word pairs, repeated alternates, extended alternates, simple and extended synthetic parallelisms, climactic, antithetical, and staircase structures, synonymia, polyptoton, and many other forms of repetition.
A masterful 8-part parallelism, for example, is found in Alma 34:18-25. Its strophes manifest the characteristics of cycloides ("regular repetition") and prosapodos ("detailing"). Lines 1-2 and 5-6 begin with "yea" and deal with salvation, while lines 3-4 and 7-8 begin with "cry" and pertain to flock and fields. The composition is also punctuated at the center with the phrase "both morning, mid-day, and evening."
Parry's lengthy report has been divided into three parts: a 50-page explanatory essay, an 87-page listing of parallelisms in the order they appear in the text, and an 88-pages listing of the same parallelisms by classifications. Each part may be ordered separately on the attached order form.