Monday, August 22, 2016

If the Psalms are poetry, why don't they Rhyme?

Rhyme is a beautiful poetic device that is pleasant to the ear. It naturally draws in the audience, and adds a level of emotion to the writing beyond what the words alone can do.

So if rhyme is so wonderful, why doesn’t the poetry of the Bible use it?

One of the chief limitations of rhyme is that it is language specific. That is, what rhymes in English doesn’t rhyme in Spanish. Once translated, a poem must either lose the essence of the words, or lose the rhyme. It cannot keep both.

And the poetry of the Bible was written in Hebrew. So naturally any rhyme wouldn’t translate.

However - and this is so awesome- the poetry doesn’t rhyme even in Hebrew! At least, not in the way that we consider rhyme today.

The Psalms utilize a different rhyming method called Parallelism, or Thought Rhyme

So where normal rhyme has similar sounding words, thought rhyme has similar sounding thoughts, or phrases.

For example:
The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness
The world and those who dwell therein. Psalm 24:1

If you read that carefully, you’ll see that the psalmist is basically saying the same thing twice.

Do you see how the thought - the entire phrase - is rhymed? Instead of two words sounding alike, the two thoughts sound alike. You’ll quickly see that this runs throughout almost all of the poetry of the Bible!

Thought Rhyme has two significant benefits.

First, it is completely translatable. Hebrew, English, Spanish, French, German - the thought can be rhymed without losing its poetic effect. This is so brilliant! God knew that His Word would be translated into hundreds of languages, and so the rhyming technique He chose would allow the poetic effect to be carried through translation. Amazing.

Secondly, and I think more importantly, it enables what I call a “three dimensional view” of any given thought. Let me give an analogy:

With normal vision, you have two eyes. A left eye and a right eye. If you hold an object just in front of you, close your left eye and look at the object. Then close your right eye and look through just your left. Go back and forth a few times and you’ll notice that each eye sees the object in almost exactly the same way - but at a slightly different angle.

With both eyes open, your brain then takes those two subtly different images and combines them into a single, 3-dimensional image in your mind.

That is exactly what Thought Rhyme enables you to do! It gives you two slightly different angles on a single topic, so you can combine the two to get a sense of depth for any given passage of Scripture that would otherwise be “flat” or 2-dimensional.

If this idea of Thought Rhyme clicks with you - if you really get it and understand it, it will transform the way you look at the Bible. It will add a depth of perspective and understanding to the Scripture that will forever change your relationship with the Word of God.

And it’s not isolated to the Psalms! When you read the Gospels, you’ll notice, for example, that Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8 all have accounts of “The Parable of the Sower”. They are all 3 very close, but have subtle differences. Combining the 3 together forms one complete picture. And so it is with all of the stories and parables in the Gospels.

Truly this idea of Parallelism, Thought Rhyme, is amazing. I cannot say enough about it!

I will share one more post, in which I will share the various types of Thought Rhyme, along with several examples. Then I will continue the devotions on the Psalms. But I will be making reference to this rhyming technique often, so I wanted to take the time to introduce it properly.

As you read the Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, etc., be on the lookout for “Thought Rhyme”, and consider how the two slightly different statements combine together to form a complete picture of what is being said.

A nice article discussing Parallelism (Thought Rhyme):

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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