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Synonymous, Antithetic, and Emblemetic Parallelism

Updated on June 16, 2008

Synonymous Parallelism

The most common form of parallelism used by our poetic prophets in the scriptures is called synonymous parallelism. This is a result of the theme on the first line being repeated in the second line but with slightly different words.



A: A man's belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth

B: with the increase of his lips shall he be filled. (Proverbs 18:20)

A: A false witness shall not be unpunished

B: He that speaketh lies shall perish. (Proverbs 19:19)


Both lines are closely related or are repeated ideas to reinforce a single major concept. Repetition is a major teaching technique used throughout the scriptures. With synonymous parallelism the poet would repeat and reinforce the idea for his listeners making it easier to recall when orally repeating it.

Antithetic Parallelism

Another form of parallelism is called antithetic parallelism. This is where the thought of the first part of the couplet contrasts with an opposite theme contained in the second part.


A: A hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbor;

B: through knowledge shall the just be delivered. (Proverbs 11:9)

A: By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted

B: It is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked. (Proverbs 11:11)


The use of opposites clarifies both extremes. In poetry the use of opposites can bring a sharper contrast to an image and provide a greater focus to the desired message.

Emblematic Parallelism

Emblematic parallelism is another form of poetry that is used in the teachings of the scriptures. This is shown when two lines are compared by means of a simile or metaphor.


A: Though your sins be as scarlet

B: they shall be white as snow

A: though they be red as died wool

B: they shall be as fleece. (Isaiah 1:18)

"Like" and "As"

This parallelism is often recognized by the key words of "like" and "as." This type of poetic teaching allows the listener to compare his experiences in life to help him understand the message being conveyed, however; like parables which were also used in teaching, it can be challenging to discover the additional insight or message that is included in this form of poetic expression.

Look for them as you study.

All three of these semantic parallelisms are fairly easy to find in the Old Testament and it can be fun to try to identify them as you study.


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