Finding the WHY
Now we get to the fun part! Finding the purpose of the book is our main goal in Biblical Exegesis. Why is the author writing this? What is he trying to communicate to those who are reading his letter? As good Bible students it is imperative that we find the author’s original intended meaning and purpose before we can truly understand how we can apply the scriptures to our own lives. “Finding the purpose of the book” is another way of saying that we are going to find the “main idea,” as we learned growing up when doing reading comprehension in school. We will be looking at four helpful strategies for finding the WHY–the purpose of the book.
- The first strategy for finding the purpose of the book is to identify the keywords.
Keywords are the words that the author uses most frequently (this can also include phrases). It is only logical to conclude that when a word is used frequently it goes hand in hand with the central thrust of what the author is trying to communicate. For example, if I were to call you up and say, “I went to the shoe store because they were having a shoe sale to end all shoe sales. It was a shoe lover’s shoe heaven. Shoes were thrown all over the shoe store, but I managed to find a pair of green shoes and a pair of orange shoes for the summer.” I am pretty confident you would conclude that the purpose for this statement was to tell you about a shoe store sale! (I used the word “shoe” 9 times, “store” twice and “sale” twice). In the same way, we can use this strategy as a clue for finding the purpose of a book.
The best way to find the keywords is to count them. Read through the book you are studying and try to be mindful of reoccurring words and then make a list where you can count how many times the word is used.
Examples: Romans: “Faith”-63 times in 16 chapters; 1 Timothy: “Godliness”-10 times
- The second strategy for finding the purpose of the book is to look for prayers.
If God’s inspired man is praying about something in his writing, you have to conclude that it is important! Prayers often talk about what is greatest on our hearts and minds and we see prayers in the scriptures that do so as well.
Examples: 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13: In this prayer, Paul prays that they’ll increase and abound in love to one another and to all, which is the point of the first three chapters. Second, he prays that God will establish their hearts in holiness at the second coming, which is the focus of chapters four and five.
Ephesians 1:15-19 Within this prayer we see the purpose of the writing and find the keywords for the book of Ephesians as well. (Riches (6 times), Power (10 times), Believers (10 times), Glory (8 times), Saints (15 times), His (37 times)).
- The third strategy for finding the purpose of the book is to look for purpose statements.
How simple is that? I wish every book had a purpose statement. A purpose statement is a verse that says clearly and plainly why the author is writing.
John 20:30-31 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name
1 John 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
- The fourth strategy for finding the purpose of the book is to look for petition verbs.
Erynn Sprouse’s recent article “Power of Persuasion” discusses petition verbs briefly and references Dr. Denny Petrillo, who teaches Biblical Exegesis at the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver. This series of articles I have been writing is based on the class notes given by Dr. Petrillo. I will reiterate here for the purpose of this series…
The petition verb Parakalo means “I urge, I beg, I beseech”. This strategy of finding petition verbs is specific to Paul’s writings (Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1&2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon). It is specific to Paul’s writings because it seems that Paul loves the petition verb and never uses it unless he is hammering home a point. In the English language we have tons of ways we can emphasize things. We can use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, make a statement or word bold, underline the statement, or use an exclamation point! The Greek language did not have exclamation points or bold font and it was written all in capital letters, so they used words for emphasis. Paul’s emphasis word is Parakalo (I urge, I beg, I beseech). Whenever he uses this word it usually goes hand in hand with the purpose of the book.
Finding the purpose of a book is the main goal in Biblical Exegesis. We must stay true to the text and draw out from the writing only what the original author intended to communicate. After we have found the purpose of the writing, we must read the book or letter through the “glasses” of the purpose, always relating what we are reading to what the author’s main idea was.
By Aimee Lemus
Check Out The Whole Series!