Rightly Dividing



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.”


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.