Home > Book of Revelation, Chiasmus > On the chiastic structure of Revelation

On the chiastic structure of Revelation

January 20, 2011

A chiastic outline of the book of Revelation was proposed by Nils Wilhelm Lund, in 1942. [1] Reviews of his book viewed Lund’s claims as too revolutionary.

Chiasm was used as a literary device in the ancient world, in Babylonia, Israel, Greece, and Rome. It fell out of use, however, and in modern times the existence of chiasms in ancient literature was only recognized by a few scholars in the 18th and 19th centuries. This changed in the middle of the twentieth century, when Nils Wilhelm Lund wrote Chiasmus in the New Testament. “Since these seminal studies the study of New Testament chiasm has blossomed, until today recognition of chiastic structure is common in full-scale commentaries and other scholarly works. The study of Old Testament chiasms has likewise begun to come of age.”

The above quote is from http://www.conservapedia.com/Chiasmus.

The outline below, showing the center or focus of the book of Revelation occurs in chapter 12, where Satan is cast out of heaven, and the saints are victorious, incorporates some of Lund’s ideas:

Chiastic structure in Revelation

L.L. Thompson noted “circularity” or concentric development in the structure of Revelation, and wrote: [2]

The seer tends to develop his material concentrically into ever-widening rings. So, for example, several of the eschatological promises to those who conquer (the victorious)–an element of the seven letters of chapters 2-3–reappear in the vision of the New Jerusalem in chapters 21-22: at the beginning of the vision of renewal God makes the link to the letters by saying, “He who conquers shall have…” (21:7, cf. 2:11); the tree of life promised to those victorious at Ephesus (2:7) appears in the city (22:2); The victorious at Smyrna will not be harmed by the second death (2:11), a phrase that is made clear in 21:8 (cf. 20:6, 14); those conquering at Sardis will not have their names wiped from the book of life (3:5, cf. 21:27); and to those conquering at Laodicea Jesus promises a seat with him on his throne (3:21), while at 22:5 his servants reign forever in the city with the enthroned God and the royal Lamb.

Elisabeth S. Fiorenza proposed a chiastic-type correlation between Revelation 1:9-3:22 and 19:11-22:9. [3]

Warren Austin Gage supported Nils Lund’s chiastic correlation between the Seven Epistles of Revelation 2:1-3:22, and the visions of the whore of Babylon and the New Jerusalem, Revelation 17:1-22:5. In his thesis Gage developed and explored Lund’s idea. [4]

Barbara Snyder proposed a chiastic structure. [5] Her scheme is presented in G. K. Beale’s commentary. [6] It paired chapter 11 with chapter 12, G-G’ below:

A. Introduction: apocalypse, epistle, prophecy (1:1-3, 4-8, 9-20)
   B. Vision: the saints on earth (chs. 2-3)
      C. The Heavenly Sanhedrin Convened for Judgment and Enthronement 
      (chs. 4-5)
         D. Seven Seals (6:1-8:1)
            E. Seven Trumpets (8:2-9:21)
               F. Theophany: the Lord's messenger descending to sea and 
               land (ch 10)
                  G. War against the Saints on Earth (ch. 11)
                  G' War against the Dragon in Heaven (ch.12)
               F' Counter-Theophany: Yamm's two messengers ascending 
               from sea to land (ch. 13)
            E' Unnumbered Series of Seven Proclamations (ch. 14)
         D' Seven Bowls (chs. 15-16)
      C' The Heavenly Sanhedrin Convened for Judgment and the Messianic 
      Reign (chs. 17-20; cf 20:4-15)
   B' Vision: the saints in heaven (21:1-22:5)
A' Conclusion: apocalypse, epistle, prophecy (22:6-0, 10-20, 21)

Snyder’s scheme, IMO, misses evidence for chiasm in chapter 12.

David L. Barr stated, [7] “Many have observed a strong correlation between the beginning and ending of Revelation. There are at least eleven points of correspondence.” These are evidence for the outermost level of a chiastic structure. He listed these points:

John names himself [1:1, 4, 9; 22:8]
An angel sent [1:1; 22:6]
Will soon take place [1:1; 22:6]
The servants [1:1; 22:6]
Reader blessed [1:3; 22:7]
The time is near [1:3; 22:10]
Grace to you [1:4; 22:21]
The Alpha and Omega [1:8; 22:13]
The Spirit [1:10; 22:17]
Stars and angels [1:16, 20; 22:16]
John falls at feet [1:17; 22:8]


1. Nils Wilhelm Lund. Chiasmus in the New Testament, a study in formgeschichte. The University of North Carolina press in Chapel Hill. 1942

2. L.L. Thompson, The Book of Revelation (New York:Oxford University Press, 1990) p. 45.

3. Elisabeth S. Fiorenza. Revelation: Vision of a Just World. Fortress Press, 1998. p. 35-36.

4. Warren Austin Gage, St John’s vision of the heavenly city. p. 26.

5. Barbara W. Snyder. Combat Myth in the Apocalypse. 1991

6. G. K. Beale. The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1998. p. 143.

7. David L. Barr. Reading the book of Revelation: a resource for students. Brill, 2004. p. 14

Related posts

Is Revelation 12 a chiasmus?

  1. Jeremy Lundmark
    April 29, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Is the first Chaism suggested in this article your own or is there a reference for it. Just wondering.

    • April 29, 2011 at 1:55 pm

      Quoting Jeremy Lundmark April 29, 2011:

      Is the first Chaism suggested in this article your own or is there a reference for it. Just wondering.

      Yes, it is my own.


  2. David Cronkhite
    April 29, 2012 at 10:33 am

    The following is a large chiastic structure showing the similarities between the book of Genesis and the book of Revelation. Note the cluster where Naamah’s name is mentioned. Also, the chiasmus fades as it moves toward the center.

    I see three major categories:

    Gen 1 and Rev 22, The Creator and the His creation
    Gen 2 and Rev 21, Adam and Eve typifying Christ and the Church in wedlock
    Gen 3 and Rev 20 Judgment by the Creator
    Gen 4 and Rev 17 World / Babylon

    The gospel of John is a parallel thus:

    Gen 1 and John 1, Creation motif
    Gen 2 and John 2, The Troth or Wedding
    Gen 3 and John 3, Justice / Justification
    Gen 4 and John 4, Naamah and the Woman at the Well


    Genesis 1:15
    let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night.
    Revelation 22:5
    There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light.

    Genesis 2:9
    The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 10 Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden
    Revelation 22:1
    And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life,

    Genesis 2:12
    And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there.
    Revelation 21:18
    the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones

    Genesis 2:22
    Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.
    Revelation 21:9
    “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”

    Genesis 3:8
    And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the spirit of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves
    Revelation 20:11
    Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away.

    Genesis 3:13
    The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
    Revelation 20:2
    He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan……so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished.

    Genesis 3:20
    And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.
    Revelation 19:7
    the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” 8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright,

    Genesis 4:17
    And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch…etc…Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute. 22 And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron. And the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah. Then Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice, Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech! For I have killed a man for wounding me, even a young man for hurting me.
    Revelation 18:21
    Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore. The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore. No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore and the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore. 23 The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived. 24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.”

    Genesis 4:26
    Then men began to call on the name of the LORD.
    Revelation 18:17
    as many as trade on the sea stood at a distance and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning

    Genesis 7:1
    “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.
    Revelation 18:4
    “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.

    Genesis 7:19
    The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered.
    Revelation 17:9
    The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits……the waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.

    Genesis 9:4
    But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning
    Revelation 17:6
    I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

    Genesis 9:23
    But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. &
    Revelation 16:15
    Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.

  3. April 30, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Hi David,

    Thanks for your comment. I tried to summarize to illustrate the pattern you found. I think it is most interesting. Here is part of it:

    Lights created, Gen. 1:15
        the river in Eden, Gen. 2:9
            gold, precious stones, Gen. 2:12
                Adam given a wife, Gen. 2:22
                    the serpent, Gen. 3:13
                        God clothes the man and the woman, Gen. 3:20
                            a city is built, Gen. 4:17
                            Babylon destroyed, Rev. 18:21
                        the bride clothed, Rev. 19:7
                    the serpent bound, Rev. 20:2
                Christ's bride, Rev. 21:9
            the city is pure gold, adorned with precious stones, Rev. 21:18
        the river of life, Rev. 22:1
    God is the light, Rev. 22:5


  4. April 30, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    David, the Chiasm below is a modification of the one you suggested.

    Lights created, Gen. 1:15
        the river in Eden, Gen. 2:9
            gold, precious stones, Gen. 2:12
                Adam given a wife, Gen. 2:22
                    the serpent, Gen. 3:13
                        God clothes the man and the woman, Gen. 3:20
                            a city is built, Gen. 4:17
                                the flood, Genesis 7-8
                                the serpent's flood, Rev. 12:15-16
                            Babylon destroyed, Rev. 18:21
                        the bride clothed, Rev. 19:7
                    the serpent bound, Rev. 20:2
                Christ's bride, Rev. 21:9
            the city is pure gold, adorned with precious stones, Rev. 21:18
        the river of life, Rev. 22:1
    God is the light, Rev. 22:5


  5. April 18, 2013 at 11:44 am

    I’m surprised you have left out one of the most significant features of chiastic structure in Scripture, as discovered by the Orthodox priest and scholar Fr. John Breck in his book ‘The Shape of Biblical Language’ – that the center of the chiastic structure is the point or purpose of the entire thesis! Pick up a copy and carry your understanding even further.

  6. Kim
    May 28, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    I used some of your material to teach my students about the book of revelation. At the end of the class when they seemed to get it, we decided to writ sour own. I think it’s a really good one.

    Early every morning
    Our alarm clocks ring
    And out of bed we spring.
    Full of faith we sing
    Seminary is good.
    Have no fear, The Lord is near!
    Off to school we leave in cheer,
    The Spirit whispers in our ear.
    We can do this all year.

  7. Brent
    April 8, 2014 at 1:40 am

    A. Lights created, Gen. 1:15
    B. tree of life Gen 2:9
    C. the river in Eden, Gen. 2:9
    D. gold, precious stones, Gen. 2:12
    E. Adam given a wife, Gen. 2:22
    F. the serpent, Gen. 3:13
    G. God clothes the man and the woman, Gen. 3:20
    H. Babel is stopped, Gen. 11:9
    I. Abraham’s war, Gen. 14
    J. Hagar in the wilderness Gen. 21:14
    K. Dream of son, moon and stars Gen. 37:9
    L. 12 Tribes Gen 46
    M. Judah is the lion of Jacob Gen. 49:9-10
    M’ Jesus is the lion of Judah Rev. 5:5
    L’ 12 Tribes Rev. 7:4
    K’ Vision of son, moon, and stars Rev. 12:1
    J’ The woman in the wilderness Rev 12:6
    I’ Armageddon, Rev 16
    H’ Babylon destroyed, Rev. 18:21
    G’ the bride clothed, Rev. 19:7
    F’ the serpent bound, Rev. 20:2
    E’ Christ’s bride, Rev. 21:9
    D’ the city is pure gold, adorned with precious stones, Rev. 21:18
    C’ the river of life, Rev. 22:1
    B’ tree of life Rev. 22:2
    A’ God is the light, Rev. 22:5

  8. Brent
    April 8, 2014 at 1:43 am

    If someone could figure out how Rev. 11:15-19 fits with Genesis I would appreciate it.

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