My name is [xxx]. I learn in the Mir Yeshiva, and am one of the few who reads your book without throwing it (or my black hat) across the room. However, as one living within the Yeshiva system, I lack access to the works you cite, so I’m turning to you directly. You say the chiasmus approach to the Mabbul [i.e. the Genesis Flood Story] has been discredited. The Mabbul chiasmus I have seen (in the book Who REALLY wrote the Bible, a book I’m sure you can’t stand) seems pretty airtight to me. So tell me,
1)Who traced that Mabbul chiasmus to begin with, and
2)what’s wrong with it?
As best I know, the chiasmus analysis of Genesis 6-9 was made by Prof. Gordon Wenham in his Genesis commentary. As far as I remember, I didn’t mention it at all in my book. I’ve never been a big fan of chiasmus-seeking among my colleagues in biblical scholarship (Wenham’s book is just one of many). The reason is that their diagrams can often be (whether intentionally or not) misleading.
Diagramming always involves two acts of abstraction, namely, excerpting and labeling. The diagram identifies elements that the diagrammer thinks are significant, but it usually omits elements that he/she considers insignificant. Fair enough! But sometimes, the elements skipped over are important — indeed, the impression of chiasmus can only be achieved by skipping over them. “A lion in courage, and in brute force, a bull” might describe some battlefront general — and it’s a very chiasmic description, no doubt about it. But what if the text really said: “A lion in courage, and an awfully nice fellow, talkative, it’s true, but he’s had an interesting life — did you know that he was once a professional wrestler? They say that he is, in brute force, a bull.” Well, excerpting the middle part of this with three little dots (“A lion in courage and…in brute force, a bull”) will “restore” the symmetry — but was it ever there in the first place?
Labeling is also a pliable tool for someone looking for symmetry or chiasmus. Labels like “Noah,” “the Ark,” etc. are pretty vague — they could equally well apply to all sorts of other verses that are not so labeled. “Entry to ark” is supposedly paralleled by “Raven and dove leave ark” but actually, the PEOPLE only leave the ark later on; so is this really symmetrical? You be the judge, but I don’t find it convincing. What is worse, though, is the purpose to which such arguments are advanced; they are often designed to show us the great artistry in the Lord — as if this somehow validated the divine authorship of the Torah. But any idiot can create a text studded with symmetry and chiasmus. As I said at the end of my book, words are words are words: there’s no way to distinguish a word that came from God from one that some ordinary human made up. Nor, for that matter, can symmetry or chiasmus prove anything. I do believe that the Torah was given by God, but I can’t prove it with a diagram.