They're useful. They hold books upright. They also make stylish statements with their fancy designs.
This semester I'm teaching RP 103-- Survey of the New Testament-- at nearby Sterling College. Last Monday night we finished looking at the Gospels and we took note of the bookends, or inclusios, that "frame" the Gospel messages.
An inclusio is a literary device where the writer states a theme or idea at both the beginning and end of a story. It's intended to introduce and conclude a main point. Everything in-between is to be read with the inclusio theme in mind. When you think of inclusio, think bookends.
Each Gospel in the New Testament contains an inclusio:
Inclusio Theme: God is present with us in the person of Jesus Christ
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about...All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us."
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Inclusio Theme: The identity of Jesus-- He is the Son of God
The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!"
Inclusio Theme: The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah fulfills what was promised in the Old Testament
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
Jesus said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Inclusio Theme: Anyone who puts their faith and trust in Jesus will receive eternal life
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
An inclusio is also an effective speech tool. Introduce an idea or word picture at the beginning of your talk and then wrap up your speech with that same concept. It's a powerful way to summarize your message and remind your audience of your main thought.
The Gospels not only tell about the greatest person who ever lived, they also tell his story with great literary skill.