I read widely in theology (and elsewhere), but my very favorite books are by the great Bible teachers of the past. Those are the men and teachers I seek to emulate. The way they wrote was deeper than a typical sermon but more practical than academic theology. They took the Bible as the very word of God and interpreted it appropriately. Here are nine books of Biblical theology that continue to be very influential in my study of Scripture.
- C. I. Scofield, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth. I was on summer break from seminary, preaching in a nearly-empty rural Presbyterian Church in Saskatchewan. They had a library of molding books in complete disarray. I noticed a small paperback by Scofield. The pastor saw me leafing through it and said, “Take it.” So I did. It is probably the most effective little book on rightly dividing Scripture that I know. This little book helped me see some basic Biblical distinctions that opened up Scripture in new ways. It made me a convinced Dispensationalist.
- Clarence Larkin, The Spirit World. Larkin was a Baptist theologian famous for his prophetic charts. He wrote a book similar to Scofield’s entitled, Rightly Dividing the Word, but The Spirit World is a great example of how to do Biblical theology. He might be my favorite theologian of all time.
- James Jordan, Through New Eyes. Jordan is the exception here, in that he is a Reformed theologian, and that he is a living writer. Although I would disagree with Jordan on virtually every area of theology, this book introduced me to the meaning-rich area of Biblical imagery and symbolism.
- Merril Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament. I was speaking at Bayside Community Church, where I stayed in Margaret Riedel’s guest house. She was in her nineties and had hosted many famous Bible teachers. She was very smart, and knew her theology, and was very hard to impress. We had breakfast together and she asked if I had Unger’s OT commentary. I said no. That was the wrong answer! I forgot what she said, but she definitely made me feel like a young fool for not having it. I ordered it that day and have not regretted it. Unger is my go-to Old Testament commentary.
- Cornelius Stam, Things That Differ. Stam argued for Mid-Acts Dispensationalism, the idea that the Body of Christ begins with the raising up of Paul. I think Stam gets some things wrong here—for example, teaching that Old Testament saints were saved by faith expressed by works. Nevertheless, this book helped clarify for me the “Jewishness” of Jesus’ ministry, and the uniqueness of the revelation given to Paul. Thought-provoking.
- Alva J. McClain, Daniel’s Prophecy of the 70 Weeks. This short book is a model of how to do Biblical theology. It opened up the importance of Old Testament prophecy for me and reinforced the supernatural authorship and authority of Scripture. Only God can foretell the future, as demonstrated in Daniel’s prophecy.
- Warren Wiersbe, The Be Series. Wiersbe needs no introduction. I have every book in this series, and when it comes to getting the “preachable” idea in a text, there is no one better.
- W. Ian Thomas, If I Perish, I Perish. Major Thomas taught about how to live the Christian life. I’ve found his work very helpful. This is a commentary he wrote on the Book of Esther. Thomas takes an allegorical approach, but with some very strict interpretive rules about how to discern an allegory. Other allegorical interpretations of Scripture can easily go off the rails. But Thomas’ commentary is helpful.
- Arno Gaebelein, Gabelein’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible. This one-volume commentary is Dispensational and Pre-millennial, but what I like most about it, is its Christocentrism. Gaebelein takes a high-view of Christ in the OT and explains where he sees the Lord in the types and shadows of the Hebrew Bible.