I'm currently reading a most beautiful book: Adele Berlin's The Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism. One of the things that strikes me is that the particular way of understanding theological exegesis that I've often attempted to formulate in posts on this blog—i.e. that the living divine substance of the text reveals himself to us afresh within the form of the old, and that perceiving this requires a constant dialectic between, e.g. OT and NT, dogmatics and history, particular text and canonical whole—seems to be consistent with the mode in which large chunks of the OT itself has been composed. In other words, my (Childs', Barth's) theory is consistent with the compositional style of the Hebrew Bible (on the relation between literary mode and theology see the Minear's comments on typology in Revelation).
The literary mode is parallelism. Parallelism is held to be the defining feature of Biblical poetry, and one of the things Berlin does in her book is to extend this concept beyond the realm of parallel lines within poetry to contiguous lines in prose and to larger chunks of text, such as strophes and even whole psalms (she doesn't go that far, but others do). The function of parallelism is ultimately to communicate a message, and it does this by creating contrast within equivalence. Equivalence is established on various levels—e.g. grammatical, phonological, and semantic—, thus binding the pairs together, and yet within this bounded unit contrasts are set up. The contrasts that are set up have a double function: both to disambiguate and to ambiguate the previous part of the parallelism (i.e. they create redundancy and ambiguity, one of the major dichotomies in linguistic discourse). The significant point is that both functions occur simultaneously and that they occur for the sake of doing justice to the subject matter. Here's a quote from Berlin:
A parallel line does both; it insures the delivery of the information in the first line and, even in the context of the first line, it encourages a second view of things, an alternate interpretation. Redundancy and ambiguity (disambiguation and polysemy) are locked in eternal struggle in parallelism. To choose one is to lose the other, and thereby lose the major dialectic tension of parallelism. There is no better way to sum this up than to quote
אחת דבר אלהים // שתים שמעתי
One thing God has spoken // Two things I have heard.
This verse not only lends itself to discussions of hermeneutics—that one statement has many interpertations—but it also reflects the essence of parallelism. Parallelism is constituted by redundancy and polysemy, disambiguation and ambiguity, contrast within equivalence. Parallelism focuses the message on itself but its vision is binocular. Like human vision it superimposes two slightly different views of the same object and from their convergence it produces a sense of depth (p. 99).
I would say that parallelism, whether in a poetic couplets like the above or within the juxtaposition of entire chapters like Gen 1 and 2, functions like a “stereoscope.” The true referent is neither line a or line b, but rather some other abstraction beyond both, an abstraction that can only be perceived via “the dialectic tension of both.” In terms of Ps 24, what is the referent of the singular feminine object pronoun in v. 2a and b? Tevel or Eretz? Or another reality that both point to imperfectly.
Paul Minear once pointed out that there is a connection between literary technique and theology (see my post Eschatology and historical methodology). Can we see that here? A major attribute of the Biblical God is that he is both creator and redeemer, he redeems his creation, he takes what he already once found good - the old - and brings it to its goal - the new (as I wrote in my post Beauty and the Piss Christ).
In a similar way, I wonder if one could call parallelism “redemptive," in that partialities are made to point beyond themselves to something "more true." Redemption is the instantiation of the Kingdom of God, the eschatological New Creation. Whatever that is, it is both continuous and discontinous with this side of creation (see Paul's argument about resurrection). Though I certainly don't think that poetic parallelism was created for the purpose of witnessing to this reality (it's just a mundane literary tool that can be put to all kinds of banal uses), the dialectic between old and new that is the stuff of Biblical theology lends itself nicely to such a paratacic literary technique.
Perhaps if Biblical scholars trained their vision to be able to see what emerges from between the seams of the Bible, their exegesis would bring us and the world closer to the reality that evoked the whole of Scripture in the first place.