Inclusio is just another word for sandwich.
Ancient Greek and Hebrew literature, such as the Bible, did not have punctuation and paragraph breaks, so the authors had to use other methods to tell their audiences when certain things were happening in the structure of their books. One literary device they used to do this is called the “inclusio.”
An inclusio pattern is one in which a paragraph or longer portion of literature ends in a similar fashion to how it began. Somehow, a paperclip ended up between pp 178 and 179 of my Bible, so here’s an example of an inclusio from those pages:
Num 4:24 This is the service of the families of the Gershonites, in serving and in carrying: 25 they shall carry the curtains of the tabernacle and the tent of meeting with its covering and the covering of porpoise skin that is on top of it, and the screen for the doorway of the tent of meeting, 26 and the hangings of the court, and the screen for the doorway of the gate of the court which is around the tabernacle and the altar, and their cords and all the equipment for their service; and all that is to be done, they shall perform. 27 All the service of the sons of the Gershonites, in all their loads and in all their work, shall be performed at the command of Aaron and his sons; and you shall assign to them as a duty all their loads. 28 This is the service of the families of the sons of the Gershonites in the tent of meeting, and their duties shall be under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.
The Book of Proverbs opens:
1:1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:
1:2 To know wisdom and instruction,
To discern the sayings of understanding,
1:3 To receive instruction in wise behavior,
Righteousness, justice and equity;
1:4 To give prudence to the [a]naive,
To the youth knowledge and discretion,
1:5 A wise man will hear and increase in learning,
And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,
1:6 To understand a proverb and a figure,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
See how these passages open and close in the same way? Inclusios like these have given the Bible a reputation among modern readers as being repetitive, but if you think about the Bible as a bunch of books in separate scrolls without chapters and verses, it helps to have these markers to know when and where sections begin and end.
Isaiah 1:21 begins, “How the faithful city has become a harlot…” and Is 1:26 ends, “…After that you will be called the city of righteousness, A faithful city.” <-- That’s an inclusio.
James 2 has two inclusios. The first begins in 1:25 with reference to the perfect law of liberty and ends in 2:12-13 with reference to the law of liberty again. Then 2:14 begins with “faith without works” and 2:26 ends with “faith without works.”
And so on and so forth. That’s how inclusios work, so keep your eye out for them in your personal Bible study, mkay?