hodegeo

ὁ•δη•γέ•ω

verb — [ho-de-geh-oh]

definition: to assist in reaching a desired destination; lead, guide; to assist someone in acquiring information or knowledge; teach, explain, instruct.

example usage:

πῶς γὰρ ἂν δυναίμην ἐὰν μή τις ὁδηγήσει με; (Acts 8:31)

An Ethiopian eunuch, traveling home on the Gaza road, was confused reading the prophet Isaiah. Directed by the Spirit, Philip ran over to the chariot and asked the eunuch if he understood what he was reading. He answered, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8:31 ESV, NAS), unless someone “explains it to me” (NIV, The Message). Then he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

Forms of the word hodegeo are also used in passages such as Matthew 15:14 and Luke 6:39 referring to “blind leading the blind.” It is also used in John 16:13 where Jesus promises that “when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”

Until yesterday, I had never heard, or at least paid attention to, someone explaining this word. I’ve lauded exegesis and paid thousands of dollars for almost a decade of training to avoid eisegesis. Interestingly enough, MacArthur, Boice, and Barclay make no comment whatsoever about the use of hodegeo in Acts 8:31 (and I mention them because those are the commentaries on Acts I own). I had to hear about hodegesis from Eugene Peterson (yes, that Eugene Peterson).

The Greek words for “explain” and “guide” share the same verbal root, “to lead,” and have a common orientation in and concern for the text. But the explainer, the exegete, leads the meaning out of the text; the guide, the hodegete, leads you in the way (hodos) of the text. (Working the Angles, 128)

Peterson illustrates the nuance of hodegesis like this:

It is the difference between the shopkeeper who sells maps of the wilderness and the person who goes with you into it, risking the dangers, helping to cook the meals, and sharing the weather. (Ibid.)

Don’t get me wrong. I.♥.exegesis. Let’s give three cheers for exegesis! I’m just surprised that this exegetical, hodegetical bushwhacker of a word hasn’t lead the way more often.

Ten Commandments for Preaching

Ten Commandments for Preaching

  1. Thou shalt not put words in God’s mouth.
  2. Thou shalt prepare and preach every message as though it were thy last.
  3. Thou shalt not present the Word of God in a boring and non-compelling manner.
  4. Thou always shalt point to Christ in thy message.
  5. Thou shalt edify thy hearers to faith and obedience.
  6. Thou shalt not be one kind of person and another kind of preacher.
  7. Thou shalt not open a commentary until thou hast read the passage 100 times.
  8. Honor thine context above all else, so that it may go well with thee in thy message.
  9. Thou shalt make the point of the text the point of the message.
  10. Thou shalt preach and teach doctrine above all else.

-By J. Tyler Scarlett, Pastor of Forest Baptist Church in Forest, Virginia

Cross References and Context

Cross-references may be the most abused practice in Bible study.1 Sure, some are helpful. When a New Testament author quotes an Old Testament passage, it’s convenient to know the reference apart from reading all 37 books to find it. Likewise, when the same event is described in multiple places, sometimes those additional perspectives increase understanding.

However, not all cross-references are created equal. Just because a similar phrase or idea is found in two or more places does not necessarily mean that both places are related. Cross-references were added by someone else, meaning cross-references are not inspired. In fact, they may hinder a person rather than help a person rightly divide his copy of God’s Word, especially if they cause him to move too quickly away from the immediate context.2

Unless it’s obvious that the original author intended for his readers to think about another passage of Scripture, we must be cautious. John Calvin said,

Since it is almost (the interpreter’s) only task to unfold the mind of the writer whom he has undertaken to expound, he misses his mark, or at least strays outside his limits, by the extent to which he leads his readers away from the meaning of his author. (Quoted in Steve Lawson, The Expository Genius of John Calvin, 70).

Does that mean we should never consider cross-references? Obviously I don’t think that. In terms of contexts, cross-references do fit into the Level 9 circle since they are within the wider context of the Canon. (By the way, I don’t consider it a cross-reference if you’re in the same book/epistle/etc.). But the closer we walk to the paragraph level, the closer we stay to what the original author wanted his original readers to understand.

Let me suggest three lawful uses of cross-references:

  1. Systematic theology. After meticulous observation in each passage, there is a place to summarize exegesis and outline Scripture’s teaching on a particular subject. [That’s why young theologians are risky. We want someone like John Calvin, and his Institutes of the Christian Religion (1755 OT quotations and 3098 NT quotations), whose theology was refined by “dragging” it through sequential OT and NT exposition for almost 30 years, totaling 21 volumes of commentaries.]
  2. Analogia Scriptura. Sometimes when exegesis is stuck, we may be helped by studying a clear(er) passage that sheds light on the one that is unclear.
  3. The Checking Principle. At the end of exegesis (not the beginning), we would be wise to float our conclusions in the broader biblical pool since God’s Word never scuttles itself.

But note, the best uses come after our observation and interpretation of a given passage, or as a last resort when we can’t figure it out. We often run away from our primary passage too soon. Skipping to cross-references too quickly and too often eclipses exegesis; skipping rarely enlightens exegesis.

The Bible-teaching burden doesn’t always require showing people that God’s Word says the same thing twenty times. If God says it once, that one time wields as much divine authority as the other nineteen times. The flow of argument in the near context may make a more powerful case for a truth then a distant cross-reference.


  1. These thoughts come from the second session of my Rightly | Dividing seminar titled, Surveying Contexts in Bible Study.
  2. Books like The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, can be helpful, but they can also be deadly if they push a person outside the context.

Prayer Seminar Material

*All audio, notes, and presentation slides from the Devoted to Prayer seminar are now available for free to anyone interested.

There is maybe no more important characteristic of a godly man or woman than prayer. Regardless of vocation, regardless of culture, regardless of spiritual giftedness, a person who is godly, a person who lives according to the Bible, prays. Every believer who desires God’s work in their own heart and in the lives of others must appeal to God for it. We often have not because we ask not. All six sessions aimed to move believers beyond casual and occasional prayer to committed and constant prayer.

Bible Study Seminar Material

Rightly Dividing

All material from the Rightly | Dividing seminar is now available for free to anyone interested. I summarized the goal of the seminar as follows in my original announcement here on the Void:

Rightly | Dividing aims to move believers beyond personal Bible reading to Bible study. There are many useful Bible reading plans, and for that matter, much excellent material is available from good Bible teachers. But this seminar hopes to train people how to understand and depend on the Book, not only on teachers of the Book.

The mp3 audio, m4v files with my slides synced to the audio, and my notes for each session are good to go. Take whatever you want from approximately six hours of teaching, including topics such as how to prepare for study, basic principles (hermeneutics) for Bible study, how to find the point of a paragraph, and recommended tools for further study.

Rightly Dividing Your Copy of God’s Word

Today we announced a new seminar at church:

*

Rightly | Dividing aims to move believers beyond personal Bible reading to Bible study. There are many useful Bible reading plans, and for that matter, much excellent material is available from good Bible teachers. But this seminar hopes to train people how to understand and depend on the Book, not only on teachers of the Book.

I’ll be teaching this seminar on Saturday, October 11.1 It will include over six hours of teaching, covering topics like how to prepare for study, basic principles (hermeneutics) for Bible study, how to find the point of a paragraph, and recommended tools.

Anyone in the area is welcome to attend. If you’re interested, jump over to the Rightly | Dividing website for more details and online registration.


  1. Don’t tell anyone, but October 11 also happens to be Mo’s due date with Hallie.