Zulick Home Page | COM100 | COM225 | COM340 | COM341 | COM300 | COM302 | All Primary Texts | All References

 

On Antithesis and Syncrisis
Antithesis and syncrisis are very closely related. Both concern stating something in terms of paired opposite constructions. Antithesis tends to emphasize the semantic contrast of two opposing terms, while syncrisis focuses on the syntactical comparison and contrast of phrases parallel in form but opposite in meaning. In practice, syncrisis is the narrower term. In Matthew's "Antitheses," for instance, the opposition of thought takes several verses to developt while within the exposition are several discrete syncrises.

Basic Definitions
Antithesis in Handlist of Rhetorical Devices
Syncrisis
in Handlist of Rhetorical Devices
Antithesis in Silva Rhetoricae.
Syncrisis in Silva Rhetoricae.

Corbett and Connors

Illustrations

Antitheses, internal syncrises italicized (Matthew 5: 21-45):
21-22. Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire...

27-30. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

31-32. It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

33-35. Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King...

38-42. Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

43-48. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

John F. Kennedy, Inaugural.
"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
This example of chiasmus is also an example of syncrisis.
 
References
Corbett, Edward P. J. and Robert J. Connors. Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student. 4th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1999.
Erickson, Keith V. "Antithesis in Attic Oratory." Communication 8 (1979): 157-166.