Helpful Books for Bible Study
4. Bible Outlines
We devote a special section to a class of very helpful books which lie between the dictionary and the commentary. For want of a better word, we will speak of these under the general head of Books of Bible Outline. They give us in a general way the contents of the whole Bible sometimes in a brief, rapid summary, and again in a more detailed unfolding of the contents and purport of each book or perhaps, better than all, the contents and scope of each book and its grouping
as bringing out the marvelous, perfect structure of the Scriptures.
1. "The Books of the Bible" by J. N. Darby, is a little book that can be put in the pocket and read through perhaps in an hour or so. It is very brief, but gives an excellent summary of all the books of both Old and New Testaments.
2. "Bible Outlines" by Walter Scott, is fuller and is valuable as giving a summary of the books of both Old and New Testaments in sufficient detail to enable one to form a fairly clear and comprehensive view of the Bible as a whole.
3. "The Numerical Structure of Scripture" by F. W. Grant, supplies a most suggestive and beneficial outline of the books, describing them not only by their contents, but by their numerical position in the various groups into which Old and New Testaments are divided. This is a most helpful book, and its publication marked what we may almost call an epoch in systematic Bible study.
4. "From Genesis to Revelation" by S. Ridout. This book is based upon the preceding, and is an attempt to combine the structural analysis of Mr. Grant with a descriptive summary of the contents of each book, somewhat after the manner of the "Synopsis" next to be described. It lies, in this way, midway between the two, and has been helpful in giving in simple, colloquial language, easily understood, the results of the profounder work that went before.
5. "Synopsis of the Books of the Bible" by J. N. Darby. Perhaps no uninspired book that has ever been written, all things considered, has been more used in opening up the word of God than these five unpretentious volumes. Two are devoted to the Old Testament and three to the New. Originally written in French, but added to and enlarged by their author, they were written, as nearly all the works of this devoted and learned servant of Christ, with the special object of the edification of the people of God. A prolific author of some forty volumes or more, it might be said that scarcely one of them was prepared without some definite purpose in view. Often it was to meet error. Even when writing on such topics as particles and prepositions, there was the evident purpose of the edification of the saints. Learned beyond ordinary, but with no pretense of pedantry, with a mind the equal or superior of any in his time, coupled with the simplicity of a child and the devotedness and zeal of first love, we cannot too warmly commend everything written by this faithful servant of God.
His "Synopsis" remains the one book par excellence for the Bible reader and student who desires to get a full, clear summary of the contents and scope of the word of God. Mr. Darby had the unusual gift, beyond most, of grasping the great, salient features of an inspired book and of falling into the current and purpose of the Spirit of God in its elucidation. He could thus state in a few paragraphs the main theme and object of each book. This was followed by a few words marking the divisions of the book and under each division is given further the contents and main theme of each chapter or group of chapters. The work is therefore of great value as a companion to simple Bible reading. If we would spend a few minutes in reading the outline of the special chapter with which we are occupied in our Bible reading, it would be very illuminating. While all this applies to the Synopsis of the entire Bible, it is particularly true of the three volumes of the New Testament, and in a special degree of the Epistles, where the characteristic truths of Christianity, so long tangled up in a vague mass with all the rest of Scripture, are brought out in their true light and distinctness. For those who are familiar with the "Synopsis" no words of ours are needed to commend it, but we cannot too earnestly advise those who hope to gain a clear apprehension of all the word of God to secure this work, and make it the companion of their studies.
This must suffice for books of general outline.
6. In addition to these, for the New Testament and for that part of the Old which it covers, we must mention the "Numerical Bible" by F. W. Grant. A work in its way as unique as the "Synopsis," the fruit of years of patient study for his own profit, the embodiment of his convictions as to the inspiration and perfection of the word of God in its structure as well as its contents, the "Numerical Bible" in its introductory outlines gives invaluable help along the lines we are now pursuing. A little later we will refer to its other valuable features, but just here speak only of its importance for outline, synoptic work.