Default default post thumbnail

Take Up and Read: Handbook of Basic Bible Texts

This current blog series on Reflections is intended to encourage Christians to read more vigorously by providing a beginner’s guide to some of the Christian classics in such fields as theology, philosophy, and apologetics. Hopefully a very brief introduction to these important Christian texts will motivate today’s believers, as St. Augustine was called to in his dramatic conversion to Christianity, to “take up and read” (Latin: Tolle lege) these classic books.


This week’s book, Handbook of Basic Bible Texts, is by Christian theologian John Jefferson Davis and is the most helpful work I’ve used in my research and study of Scripture and theology. When I write and speak on biblical and theological topics I always utilize this very helpful volume. I’m very thankful to Dr. Davis for writing and organizing this tool for biblical and theological studies.

Why Is This Author Notable?

John Jefferson Davis is a veteran evangelical Protestant theologian and pastor. He is a professor of systematic theology and Christian ethics at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he has taught for more than 40 years. He has written several books in the areas of Christian theology, doctrine, ethics, and science.

What Is This Book About?

In this book, Davis takes every critical Scripture passage for the study of Christian doctrine and theology, then divides and lists them according to the categories of systematic theology. This book contains all of the key passages written out that address Christian theological topics. Davis uses the 1984 New International Version (NIV) of the Bible as his translation.

Each of the book’s 12 chapters represents a major area of systematic theology with passages conveniently subdivided and cited: (1) Scripture, (2) God, (3) creation, (4) providence, (5) man, (6) person of Christ, (7) work of Christ, (8) salvation and the Christian life, (9) the church, (10) sacraments, (11) individual eschatology, and (12) general eschatology.

This work makes it possible to conveniently read and study all key biblical passages on a given area of doctrine without going through the tedious process of looking each of them up individually in one’s Bible. One can also uniquely and selectively read the Bible according to doctrinal categories. Furthermore, Davis provides many helpful explanatory notes concerning the various verses and doctrines along with suggestions for further study in given areas of theology.

Below, Davis reveals his motivation for organizing this work the way he did:

“By listing important Scripture references in the order in which they are usually presented in standard systematic theologies, I hope to both save the reader time in this connection and keep the study of theology grounded in the actual text of Scripture.”1

Why Is This Book Worth Reading?

Davis’s Handbook of Basic Bible Texts is an amazingly helpful tool. This little work has saved me much time in my Scripture studies and has allowed me to think about Scripture according to the categories of systematic theology. It has also allowed me to conveniently read, study, and memorize the key doctrinal verses in the Bible. Imagine what Augustine, Luther, and Calvin would have given to have this convenient tool available to them in their studies. Lastly, the book is very inexpensive, so I highly encourage you to buy it and use it in your studies of Scripture.


  1. John Jefferson Davis, Handbook of Basic Bible Texts: Every Key Passage for the Study of Doctrine and Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 11.