The Bible, incomparably the most widely circulated of books, at once provokes and baffles study. Even the non-believer in its authority rightly feels that it is unintelligent to remain in almost total ignorance of the most famous and ancient of books. And yet most, even of sincere believers, soon retire from any serious effort to master the content of the sacred writings. The reason is not far to seek. It is found in the fact that no particular portion of Scripture is to be intelligently comprehended apart from some conception of its place in the whole. For the Bible story and message is like a picture wrought out in mosaics: each book, chapter, verse, and even word forms a necessary part, and has its own appointed place. It is, therefore, indispensable to any interesting and fruitful study of the Bible that a general knowledge of it be gained.
First. The Bible is one book. Seven great marks attest this unity.
Second. The Bible is a book of books. Sixty-six books make up the one Book. Considered with reference to the unity of the one book the separate books may be regarded as chapters. But that is but one side of the truth, for each of the sixty-six books is complete in itself, and has its own theme and analysis. In the present edition of the Bible these are fully shown in the introductions and divisions. It is therefore of the utmost moment that the books be studied in the light of their distinctive themes. Genesis, for instance, is the book of beginnings--the seed-plot of the whole Bible. Matthew is the book of the King, & etc. Third. The books of the Bible fall into groups. Speaking broadly there are five great divisions in the Scriptures, and these may be con- veniently fixed in the memory by five key-words, Christ being the one theme ( Luke 24:25-27 ).
|The OT||The Gospels||The Acts|
|The Epistles||The Apocalypse|
In other words, the Old Testament is the preparation for Christ; in the Gospels he is manifested to the world; in the Acts he is preached and his Gospel is propagated in the world; in the Epistles his Gospel is explained; and in the Revelation all the purposes of God in and through Christ are consummated. And these groups of books in turn fall into groups. This is especially true of the Old Testament, which is in four well defined groups. Over these may be written as memory aids:
Song of Solomon
Again care should be taken not to overlook, in these general groupings, the distinctive messages of the several books composing them. Thus, while redemption is the general theme of the Pentateuch, telling as it does the story of the redemption of Israel out of bondage and into "a good land and large," each of the five books has its own distinctive part in the whole. Genesis is the book of beginnings, and explains the origin of Israel. Exodus tells the story of the deliverance of Israel; Leviticus of the worship of Israel as delivered people; Numbers the wanderings and failures of the delivered people, and Deuteronomy warns and instructs that people in view of their approaching entrance upon their inheritance. The Poetical books record the spiritual experiences of the redeemed people in the varied scenes and events through which the providence of God led them. The prophets were inspired preachers, and the prophetical books consist of sermons with brief connecting and explanatory passages. Two prophetical books, Ezekiel and Daniel, have a different character and are apocalyptic, largely. Fourth. The Bible tells the Human Story. Beginning, logically, with the creation of the earth and man, the story of the race sprung from the first human pair continues through the first eleven chapters of Genesis. With the twelfth chapter begins the history of Abraham and of the nation of which Abraham was the ancestor. It is that nation, Israel, with which the Bible narrative is thereafter chiefly concerned from the eleventh chapter of Genesis to the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. The Gentiles are mentioned, but only in connection with Israel. But it is made increasingly clear that Israel so fills the scene only because entrusted with the accomplishment of great world-wide purposes ( Deuteronomy 7:7 ). The appointed mission of Israel was,