How to Use an Expository Dictionary

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Date Topic MP3 PPT Student Notes Teacher Notes
2 9/16 Expository Dictionary MP3 PPT Student Notes Teacher Notes

What is an Expository Dictionary?

An expository dictionary is a reference work which provides definitions to the original Greek and Hebrew words of the Bible. These dictionaries (sometimes also called a ‘theological dictionary’ or a ‘word study dictionary’) often provide only a selective list of words from the Bible focusing on the most common and most theologically significant words. Each definition is a word study written by scholars of the original languages of the Bible.

Why use an Expository Dictionary?

There are at three ways to use an expository dictionary:

  1. To discover the meaning (or range of meaning) of a particular word in the Bible
  2. To find helpful cross references which use the same Greek or Hebrew word
  3. To find a key verse for a biblical topic

What kinds of Expository Dictionaries are there?

Most Common

Originally published in 1940 Vine’s Expository Dictionary is the most common and most well-known. Often it is referred to as ‘Vine’s’ by those familiar with Bible study tools. It should be noted that not all publications of Vine’s are created equal. Some Vine’s cover just the New Testament words while other versions contain both Old and New Testament words. One final feature to look for are Vine’s which use the Strong’s Concordance numbering system. This feature will allow you to look up a word in the Strong’s Concordance and discover the Greek or Hebrew word (to which Strong’s gives a number) then move to your Vine’s and find the definition to the same word with confidence that you’re looking at the right definition.

Most Current

Since the 1940’s there have been a number of new expository dictionaries published. This is not without a good reason. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other literature written at the same time as the books of the Bible, scholars have grown greatly in their understanding of the Bible’s words. This fuller understanding is reflected in the following expository dictionaries:

  • Expository Dictionary of Bible Words – Renn (2005)
  • Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words – Mounce (2006)

Both of these dictionaries are attempting to update and expand Vine’s.

How to use an Expository Dictionary:

To Discover the Meaning of a Word
  1. Look up your word alphabetically according to the English word you are trying to find
  2. Read the entire entry of the word
  3. Identify the specific usage of your word with the corresponding definition (if you know the Strong’s number, this will help identify your word)
  4. Using this definition as a guide, paraphrase the definition in your own words


To Find a Word Specific Cross References
  1. After identifying the specific usage of your word (see previous method, ‘Discover the Meaning of a Word’), note any references to your word in other passages which use the word in the same or similar way.
  2. Look up each reference and cite and summarize the most helpful references.
To Find a Key Verse for a Biblical Topic

1.    Choose your topic or search for a topic.

2.    Look up the English word in the Expository dictionary.

3.    Read the entire entry.

4.    Write down 3 or 4 key passages.

5.    Read each passage in it’s context.

6.    Select a passage to study.




  1. Using the Discover the Meaning method look up the word for ‘love’ from John 3:16.
  2. Write out the definition that you found which best fits the context of John 3:16.
  3. Summarize this definition in your own words.
  1. Next try the Find a Cross Reference method. Look up a few of the verse references given in your expository dictionary. Write the best two references. Cite and summarize these verses.
  1. For this last exercise follow the steps To Find a Key Verse for a Biblical Topic. Here are a few you could look up:
  • Faith
  • Salvation
  • World
  1. Write down 3 or 4 key passages to look up.
  2. Read each passage in its context.
  3. Select one passage to study this topic which you think gives the clearest explanation of the topic. Write the reference down and the reason why you think it is a key verse on the topic.

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