Bookends in Bible Stories (Looking at “Inclusio” through Inductive Bible Study

In addition to the major structures we want to identify through Inductive Bible Study, we will also come across minor rhetorical structures. A minor structure works in relationship with a major structure. It’s a deliberate way the author shapes the text for a particular purpose.

“Inclusio” – Bracketing a Passage

One such minor rhetorical structure is called “Inclusio.” This is when a passage opens and closes with an identical (or nearly identical) text. This repetition serves as a bracket around the passage. Look at the structure inside those brackets (is it Contrast, Climax, Causation, etc.?), and you will see what structure the bracket is supporting, highlighting, setting apart.

While you probably won’t find “Inclusio” as often as the major structures, it’s important to mark this bracketing effect when you see it. The author did this deliberately, and there is something he wants to emphasize in between the brackets. Identifying the “Inclusio” when you see it will help you zero in on the passage in between the brackets.

Examples of “Inclusio”

Let’s look at a few examples of “Inclusio” (these examples are from the NIV translation):

Psalm 118 verses 1 and 29 repeat: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

Psalm 150 verses 1 and 6 repeat: “Praise the LORD.”

Mark 4:1-34:

The segment clearly opens with an introduction of Jesus beginning to teach in parables (Mark 4:1-2), and the segment closes with a recap that Jesus taught (perhaps continued to speak?) in parables (Mark 4:33-34). This bracketing stands out distinctly – it’s like listening to a newscast with its intro, telling of the story and the recap of the story – and it seems to bring the reader from the previous segment into this one. The bracketing pulls the reader through from one parable to the next, and on to the recap before sending the reader on to the next segment.

Keep Looking and Praying

That’s an overview of “Inclusio.” Sometimes you won’t find exact repetition of words, but you will find the concept repeated at the beginning and end of a passage. If you discern that the author is bracketing the passage, look more closely to find out why. What is the message the author is getting across to you through that bracketing?

Remember to pray your way through all of your Inductive Bible Study practices. God will guide you.