Denny Petrillo is the president of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver. One of the classes he teaches is “Biblical Exegesis.” Exegesis in Bible study means to take out of the text what the text is intending to say. An exegetical approach keeps us from bringing our own baggage or preconceived notions to the text. What could be more important as we strive to gain wisdom (Col. 1:9,10) and seek God’s will for us (John 7:16-18)?
Dr. Petrillo looks for Four P’s when studying. The following information about the Four P’s is from the notes I took in his class:
If a word or phrase appears frequently in a book, it must be an important concept. These “key words” help us understand the author’s focus. They keep us on task and allow us to keep verses in context. When we see a word that has a number of occurrences, we should ask, “Why does the author keep using this word? What does it mean?” From Genesis to Revelation, every book has key words. The rule of thumb is if a word occurs at least one time per chapter, it’s probably a key word. Color-coding the key words helps them jump out at you and remind you that they are important words in the book. Here are some examples we were given in class:
- “Faith” appears 63 times in Romans. The serious Bible student will put together all of the faith passages to find out the meaning of the word and how it’s used in the book.
- “Coming” appears 52 times in Matthew. By paying attention to his word, the Bible student will learn that people have different reasons for coming to Jesus–some for healing, some to test, some to be a disciple, and some for teaching.
- “Knowledge” appears 14 times in 2 Peter. Since there are only three chapters in 2 Peter, it becomes apparent that “knowledge” is a major theme in the letter.
Sometimes an author will come right out and state why he is writing.
- For example, John writes, “…these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ…” (John 20:30,31). So the Bible student now knows the purpose of the book of John and will keep that in mind when studying. Key words are often found in purpose statements. In John 20:30, 31, there are at least five key words: signs (15x), believe (99x), life (55x), disciple (79x), and Jesus (254x).
- Another example of a purpose statement is 1 Tim. 3:15,16, “…I write so that you may know how to conduct yourself in the house of God…”
Denny Petrillo likes to put the purpose statement on a 3×5 card and keep it where he can frequently look at it. He said, “This reminds me of one crucial point–he said this is why he is writing. Therefore, whatever I say should clearly and easily fit into that statement!”
When a writer says, “This is what I pray about concerning you…,” he will logically include important points. If the writer’s praying about it, it’s what the book is probably about. Examples are found in Ephesians 1:15-19 and 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5. Some questions to ask when finding a prayer:
- What are the two or three main points of his prayer?
- What seem to be the predominant words in this prayer?
When we want to emphasize an important point, we will use bold type, italics, ALL CAPS, or underlining. In the Greek, they used petition verbs. Petition verbs are “I urge,” “I beg,” “I beseech,” etc. When we come across a petition verb, the writer is letting us know that what he’s about to say is VERY important.
- Rom. 12:1- “I beseech you therefore…that you present your bodies a living sacrifice…” The petition verb clues us in to the importance of this statement and lets us know it’s a key thought in the letter.
- 1 Cor. 1:10- “Now I plead with you, brethren…that you all speak the same thing…”
- Phil. 4:2- “I implore Euodia and I implore Synteche to be of the same mind in the Lord.” Two petition verbs in one verse means what he is about to say is especially significant! The letter to the Philippians is about being of the same mind. What mindset does Paul want them to have? “Others about self” according to 2:3. “Mind” appears 11 times in the book. The serious Bible student will consider this while reading through the entire letter.
A list of petition verbs in New Testament letters can be found here.
Looking for these four P’s is one easy way to make sure we are striving to be serious students of the Word. “Be diligent to present yourself to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of God” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Prayer for Today: Thank you, Lord, for those who show us how to keep learning and growing in Your Word!