If you’ve kept up with the previous articles, you know that we have been discussing ways that we can discover the purpose of biblical books. Developing a sound, logical approach to studying these books is essential. I’m not at all discounting “reading the Bible under the shade tree.” Having quality devotional time with God’s word is priceless. Hopefully, we all do that and do it often! However, when you are ready to study the Bible, going deeper into its divine truths, what do you do? Many through the centuries have found this to be frustrating and discouraging. Yet there is hope!

In this series, I have attempted to offer an approach to studying the Bible – an approach that fits all 66 books. Granted, some of the points will not fit all the books (like looking at prayers), but others can be universally applied (looking for prevalent words or purpose statements). This approach has been identified as “The Four ‘P’s.” Previous articles have discussed Prevalent words and Purpose Statements. We are now ready to move on to the third “P”: Petition Verbs.

What are petition verbs? They are frequently translated into English: “I urge, I beg, I beseech.” This was a literary style in the First Century where the author was identifying exactly what he was trying to say. These words were the ancient way of HIGHLIGHTING, underlining, bold printing, or italicizing words. We use these tools to let our readers know that what we are saying is especially important. Our lexicons say that this word means “to urge strongly, appeal to, urge, exhort, encourage” (William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, 765). Two lexicographers note: “On the basis of statistics alone, παρακαλέω / παράκλησις are among the most important terms for speaking and influencing in the NT” (Horst Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990, 23). They will say later: “The word overwhelmingly expresses a personal and often emphatic concern” (24).

Paul, for example, loved to use petition verbs (specifically, paravkalw, Rom. 12:1; 15:30; 16:17; Eph. 4:1 and ερωτῶμεν, 1 Thess. 5:11). A good illustration of this is found in 1 Corinthians 1:10. There Paul “exhorts” the brethren to be united. The exegete would note the petition verb there and understand that this is a significant verse. And, as the book of 1 Corinthians is studied, it becomes apparent that there was a unity problem. This theme will run through the entire epistle. Many have noted that 1 Corinthians is a series of answers the apostle Paul is giving to questions the church there asked (each question begins with Paul saying “now concerning.” See 7:1, 25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1). While it is true that these were questions that came from the Corinthian church, 1 Corinthians 1:10 provides a deeper understanding of those questions. They all were areas in which there were some controversies and debates. Differences of viewpoints created divisions in the church, and Paul makes a passionate appeal for them to have “no divisions” and that they are “of the same mind and in the same judgment.” This gives us a valuable lesson for today’s church. God wants unity, but He also does not want us to forfeit doctrine to get it. Instead, the church all agrees on the one authority of God’s word, and they promise to “not exceed what is written” (4:6). Paul also reminded them that the doctrine of the church was consistent from church to church (4:17; 7:17; 11:34; 14:33; 16:1).

In Romans 12:1 Paul has a major change in the book. The first eleven chapters provide the doctrinal foundation to 1:16: the gospel is God’s plan for salvation to everyone who believes. Then, in 12:1, Paul urges the Christians to present their bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God. This verse is the launching point for the remainder of the book, where Paul demonstrates how one is to give himself as a sacrifice to God. Remember, petition verbs are akin to our making something bold or italicized. It draws our attention and reminds us that what is being said is especially important. So when we get to 12:1, we should recognize the monumental importance of that book. It is a change (from the doctrinal section in chapters 1-11 to the practical section in 12-16), and it is a strong appeal (to now act like a person of faith and give oneself wholly to God).

We are learning to see things in biblical books the way the original recipients saw them. They already knew, for example, that prevalent words were the inspired writer’s way of emphasizing. They also immediately knew the importance of a purpose statement (like in John 20:30-31 and 1 Timothy 3:15). Equally, they knew that when an inspired writer used a petition verb, he was especially accentuating what he was about to say. That is, saying it with the strongest appeal.

We will continue to look at Petition Verbs in the next article.

NOTE: A complete list of Petition Verbs is available on the Bear Valley Bible Institute website: www.WeTrainPreachers.com. Look for the link “Study resources” on the homepage.

Denny Petrillo
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Denny is married to the former Kathy Roberts.  They have been married since January 1978.  They have three children (Lance, Brett, and Laura) and Six grandchildren (Chloe, Ashlyn, Sophie, Easton, Brelyn, and Kyson).  He has served as the President of the Bear Valley Bible Institute since 2004 and has been a full-time instructor since 1985.  He has preached in Mississippi, Arkansas, Nebraska, and Colorado.  He has taught numerous classes for the World Video Bible School and has authored several books and commentaries.  He graduated from the Bear Valley School of Preaching (now the Bear Valley Bible Institute), received an AA degree in Bible (York College, York, Nebraska), BA in Bible and Biblical Languages (Harding University), and an MA in Old and New Testaments (Harding Graduate School of Religion), and a Ph.D. in Religious Education (University of Nebraska).