Exegetical Guidelines for Bible Study and Preaching

Collected by Prof. Harry Buls
and found in his exegetical notes.


1. Establish the text. The reading most likely to be correct is one which:

  1. Is found in the best manuscripts.
  2. Is most widespread geographically.
  3. Cannot be traced back to an unintentional alteration by the copyist.
  4. Is most likely to have been intentionally changed by a copyist, i.e., the harder reading is usually to be preferred (i.e., unless this destroys the sense of the text).
  5. Best agrees with the style, vocabulary, diction, etc., of the author in the book under question and throughout his corpus.

2. Know each word of the text.

  1. Note the etymology of terms.
  2. Determine the  usus loquendi  (cp. both  usus generalis  and  usus specialis ).
  3. Be aware of the semantic development of the terms.

3. Know each grammatical form and its force.

  1. Note the  Aktionsart  of Verbs, the Case Usage of Nouns, the Force of Prepositions and Conjunctions.
  2. Determine if any words or expressions are used figuratively. If so, ascertain the  tertium .

4. Relate phrases and sentences to each other.

  1. Note the literary genre.
  2. Sentence is:

    1) Simple (one main clause);

    2) Compound (two main, coordinate clauses);

    3) Complex (main clause with subordinates{adjectival or adverbial [identify/amplify]}.

5. Re-examine the variant readings in the light of your understanding of the text so far to determine the best reading.

6. Write out a rough translation.

7. Determine the thought progression in the text.

8. Relate the passage to the immediate and remote context, as well as to the unifying theme of Scripture, noting the governing influence which the context may have on the exposition of words, passages, and the entire pericope.

9. Engage in further, in-depth word and concept study using concordances, word study books, referance Bibles, Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias, and periodical articles. Look up all parallel passages!!!

10. Look at other translations.

11. Prepare a final working translation.

12. In light of the above study, establish the then and there meaning;

  1. Write out thoughts (both discoveries and inferences) as they come to you while reflecting on the text.
  2. Think through the entire text and its interpretation, applying all valid hermenutical principles, i.e., the interpretation must be:

    1) In agreement with the rules of communication and grammar.

    2) In agreement with the context, both immediate and remote.

    3) Not having tropes compared beyond the tertium.

    4) In line with the historical situation and occasion depicted by the text.

    5) Neither contradicting the Analogy of Scripture, nor the Analogy of Faith. [external matters/articles of doctrine]

    6) In line with the purpose of Scripture and recognizing its overriding authority as source and norm of all teaching.
  3. Determine the central/key thought.
  4. Distinguish carefully Law and Gospel.

13. Defend or reject exegesis in the light of commentaries and dogmatic works.

14. Ponder the relevancy of the text to people today and establish the here and now application.

15. Combine the key thought of the text with the here and now need to which it may be applied, so as to develop a concise theme.

16. Establish a coherent line of direction and the logical divisions of the theme.

17. Flesh out the skeleton, first of all, with supporting Biblical passages.

The recording of these procedures (12a.ff) is well suited to a division such as:
  1. Preliminary Observations [#13];
  2. Textual Matters [#1-6,9,10];
  3. Exegetical Items [#7-13];
  4. Homiletical Suggestions [#11-17]

A Simple Guide to Figures of Speech


ELLIPSIS: Omission of words to keep full stress on the words allowed to remain. (Matthew 14:19)

BRACHYOLOGY: Omission of words chiefly for the sake of brevity. (Matthew 25:9)

ZEUGMA: One verb governing two nouns. (1 Corinthians 7:10) (Unequal Yoke)

ASYNDETON: The omission of conjunctions. (1 Corinthians 3:13-13)

APOSIOPESIS: Sudden interruption without direct continuation of a thought. (Genesis 3:22; Matthew 9:6; Psalm 6:3) (Deliberate Silence)


MEIOSIS: Diminishing one thing to magnify another. (Numbers 13:33) (Belittling)

TAPEINOSIS: Demeaning of a thing so that the same thing may be increased and amplified. (Romans 5:6)

LITOTES: A thing is asserted to be positive in a high degree by negating its opposite. (Proverbs 17:21)


EPIZEUXIS: Repetition of the same word in the same sense. (John 1:51; Genesis 6:17.)

POLYSYNDETON: Repetition of the conjunction with successive sentences, clauses, phrases, or words, for the purpose of attracting attention to every part of what is being said. (Luke 10:27)

EPANADIPLOSIS: Repetition of the same word at the beginning and end of a sentence or strophe to complete the circle of assertion-proof-conclusion agumentation. (Psalm 27:14) (Encircling)

CLIMAX: Repetition of last word of one sentence as first word of next. (John 1:1-2; Romans 5:3-5) (Ladder)

ANTANACLASIS: Repetition of the same word in different senses within a sentence. (Matthew 8:22)

PARONOMASIA: Words similar in sound or appearance placed beside one another to emphasize both. (Romans 1:31; Genesis 29:35)

CHIASM: Inverted correspondence of statements. (Galatians 2:16; Matthew 3:10-12; Mark 5:26)

PLEONASM: Apparently redundant words are used to fill the sense and amplify the thought. (John 1:3)

HYPERBOLE: Overstatement to produce an effect without being taken literally. (Psalm 6:6)

HENDIADYS: Two related words connected by  "and"  to designate but one thing or idea. (Romans 2:5)


PERIPHRASIS: Description substituted for name. (Matthew 26:19)

METONOMY: Attribute or associated term substituted for the thing itself.

  1. cause for effect (Deutermony 17:6);
  2. effect for cause (Luke 2:30);
  3. concrete for abstract (Leviticus 19:32);
  4. abstract for concrete (Romans 3:30).

SYNECDOCHE: Part for whole (Acts 27:37); whole for part. (Luke 2:1); species for genus, singular for plural and vice versa.

EUPHEMISM: Agreeable for disagreeable. A special form of periphrasis. (Genesis 15:15)

IRONY: Intended sense is opposite literal sense. (Job 12:1)

HYSTERON-PROTERON: Word or phrase which should be the latter of two is placed first. (Philippians 3:19)

OXYMORON: Incongruous terms are brought together for emphasis. (Matthew 16:25) (Wise-Folly)

Modal Change of Discourse

ANACOLUTHON: Breaking off the sequence of thought as in parenthetical discourse, or in changing from indirect to direct discourse, etc. (Luke 5:14; Ephesians 3:2-13)

ANTIMETATHESIS: Reader addressed as though actually present. (1 Corinthians 7:16)

APOSTROPHE: Turn from the audience to address an absent person or thing (2 Samuel 18:33; Jeremiah 47:6)

ECPHONESIS: Exclamation. (Psalm 84:1)

EROTESIS: Rhetorical Question. (Romans 8:33)


SIMILE: Comparison by resemblance; formal comparison; Exodus 24:17) (like/as a beast)

METAPHOR: Comparison by representation;  "as,"  "like," "so"  not used. (Hosea 7:8) (is a beast)

HYPOCATASTASIS: Comparison by implication. Only one component named (Psalm 22:16) (beast)


PERSONIFICATION: Personality and human attributes ascribed to animals, inanimate objects or qualities (Numbers 16:32)

ANTHROPOMORPHISM: Human form or attributes ascribed to God. (2 Samuel 16:22)

ANTHROPOPATHISM: Human feelings, emotions, passions ascribed to God. (Genesis 6:6) Ascription of human actions belongs both to this class and its immediate predecessor. (Psalm 2:4)


Simple: One Main Clause

  • Indicative: fact, question for information, exclamation.
  • Subjunctive: hortatory, deliberative, prohibition, firm denial
  • Imperative: command, jussive

Compound: two or more main, coordinate clauses.

Complex: main clause, subordinate clause or clauses:

  • Adjectival: begin with  "who,"  "which," "that" 
  • Adverbial: begin with adverb, modify main verb.: indicating time, place, cause, purpose (final), result (consecutive), condition, concession, comparison, means(instrumental), manner.


INDICATIVE: denotes both time and type of action

  • Main clause: statement of fact or stating a question
  • Definite subordinate clauses
  • Statement of fact and contrary to fact conditions

SUBJUNCTIVE: always future, denotes only  aktionsart

  • Main clause: hortatory, deliberative, prohibitive, firm deny
  • Subordinate: Indefinite temporal, local, relative.

    »Purpose or final

    »Result or consecutive

    »Conditional: present, future more vivid.

IMPERATIVE: always future, only type of action


  • Future (wish), only type of action
  • Conditional: past general, future less vivid

PARTICIPLE: time relation to verb on which it depends.

  • attribute (adjective) with and/or without article.
  • substantive.(noun) with and/or without article.
  • circular. verb modifies main verb like adverb, cf. Complex Sentences for examples.
  • periphrastic construction with verb, "to be." 


  • Noun, subject or object; answers What?
  • Verb, subjective clause, not indirect discourse, states purpose, intended result, or actual result.
  • Verb in indirect discourse denotes time, not action.


NOMINATIVE: subject, apposition, predicate

VOCATIVE: person (or thing) addressed


  • Possessive: to whom does it belong?
  • Subjective: Genitive is doer of action.
  • Objective: Receiver of action.
  • Source: whence does it come?
  • Material: what is it made up of?
  • Locative: where is it?
  • Partitive: what part belongs to it?
  • Time: within what span?
  • Relation: what human relationship?
  • Price or value: worth how much?
  • Definition: Genitive is adjective.
  • Apposition: a virtual equivalent.
  • Comparison: than whom or what?
  • Agent: by whom? (with passive verb).
  • Direct Object: with some verbs, especially partitive
  • Object of certain prepositions and adjectives.
  • Genitive absolute.


  • basic idea = TO or FOR
  • Indirect object: to whom?
  • Advantage/interest: for whom?
  • Instrument/means: by means of what?
  • Manner: how?
  • Locative: where? (at rest)
  • Time: what point of time?
  • Possession: to whom/what does it belong?
  • Respect: in respect to what? 5ft. in height.
  • Sphere: to what sphere does it pertain?
  • Object of certain prepositions
  • Direct object after certain verbs
  • Object of certain adjectives


  • Direct Object: Receiver of action.
  • Subject of an infinitive
  • Cognate: Verb and direct object of kindred means.
  • Extent of space (or time): How far? (Long?)
  • Double: what is being done to whom?
  • Specification: same as Dative of respect.
  • Object of certain prepositions.


Prepositional phrases are adjectival (identify), or adverbial (amplify).

A resource from www.pericope.org