Teaching Isaiah to High School Freshmen & REPOST: Talks to Study on Studying Religious Literature

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As we are studying Isaiah for Come Follow Me over the next few weeks I wanted to capture a couple of things that I taught my high school freshman students to help them with our study of Isaiah and then found this piece about literary styles in scriptures that I wanted to repost.

The three things that I taught in our first lesson on Isaiah 1-2 were:

Dualism – Isaiah writes mainly about a few different time periods (perhaps scholars will argue about how to write these time periods, but this was easiest from my students).

  • Isaiah’s Time
  • Christ’s Time
  • Restoration/Gathering
  • Second Coming/Millennial Reign

I had the students read the chapter headings fro Isaiah 1-12 and put their chapter in the different time groups on the board to see that Isaiah often will write about two different time periods at once – Dualism.

Parallelism – To introduce this, we write a few lines of poetry (or clean rap) talking about how much we rely on rhyme and rhythm for poetry in our day. Then we discussed Isaiah’s poetry style, parallelism and read looked Isaiah 1:3, agreeing that it didn’t make sense, until I opened one of my white boards to this.

I asked the students what they saw and as they started to notice the patterns of color and then what the patterns were, we were able to break it down and see that Isaiah was calling the people out. That they were worse than the animals because they didn’t know their own master.


We then talked about the symbolism in Isaiah 1:18, (a Doctrinal Mastery scripture which we had covered in depth the day before):

Come now, and let us areason together, saith the Lord: though your bsins be as scarlet, they shall be as cwhite as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18

Discussing how the symbol (in this case a color) stands for something intangible (our sins) but very real.

I have these three literary tools written with their reminders on one of my whiteboards so that as we study Isaiah these next weeks, I can point back to the tool and they remember how to use it. It’s been gratifying to have these young students work hard and really comprehend Isaiah. Obviously, not all, some are really knuckleheads, but it’s the beginning of the school year so they’re still on their best behavior! 😉 By and large however, the bulk of the students are loving it.

Now, a quick REPOST of the piece originally written on June 14, 2019 on my Light Refreshments Blog begins here:

Working on a class for REL 215 (Scripture Study) and Monday’s lesson will be on literary styles in scripture –

Literary Styles in Scripture

Another way to help understand scripture is to understand the techniques that the authors used to write. For today’s study, we are going to spend some time familiarizing ourselves with some of these techniques (kind of like learning how notes and chords in different patterns create music or how light and composition bring photography to life).  In addition to bible literature comprising the following: Law, History, Poetry, Prophecy, Genealogy,  and Narrative, their works also included literary styles that would make it rich in meaning, but to the modern reader (who is used to Western traditional poetry and prose) scriptures can be confusing.

Hebrew writers would use:

  • Parallelism
  • Chiasmus
  • Figurative Imagery
  • Dualism

In order to learn some of these techniques, please choose to study two of the following articles and be prepared to share your findings:

Just leaving a few more talks that I came across here for study:

This is a change from the original post: Here are two more that are no longer currently active online, but perhaps one day if I truly needed to, I could go to the Harold B. Lee Library and check out the magazine that they are in:

  • Covenants Taught through Chiasmus, Eric William Graham, in BYU Religious Education 2009 Student Symposium
  • Joshua Michael Sears, “‘With Far Greater Accuracy’: How Understand Language Improves Our Study of the Scriptures,” in BYU Religious Education 2009 Student Symposium (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2009), 47–68.

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