An Introduction to the New Testament

By Adolf Jülicher

Prefatory Note


As a member of that section of the general public to which, no less than to professed students of theology, Dr. Jülicher addresses the book now presented in English dress to English readers, I may perhaps be allowed to say two or three prefatory words. ʽI hope,ʼ says Professor Jülicher in his preface to the last edition, ʽto meet a want that undoubtedly exists, outside theological circles, among people of education, by telling the history of the New Testament from its beginnings in the simplest possible way, confining myself to essentials.ʼ At the same time the book has been abundantly welcomed by the scholars of its subject. The first edition appeared in 1894; the present translation is made from the second edition; and the references to the ʽIntroductionʼ in recent literature show that it has obtained a recognised and honoured place in German theological study. Professor Wrede of Breslau, reviewing the first edition in 1896, says, ʽWe do not often meet with a theological book which, with so solid a content, is yet so clear and flowing in style . . . which is never tedious and often of absorbing interest.ʼ No doubt the German reader is a more patient and serious being than his English brother, and can be trusted not to confound the inevitable difficulty of a great and complex subject with obscurity or tedium. Close attention, very close attention, Professor Jülicher does certainly ask of us. But once this has been yielded him, the animated simplicity and sincerity of his method will begin to tell upon us,—the method of a man full of intellectual energy, full also of love for his subject; and we shall soon come to realise the brilliancy of much of his work. It would surely be difficult to find either in English or German a more masterly statement, within reasonable compass, of the Synoptic problem, or of the probable conditions governing the composition of the Fourth Gospel, or of the difficulties that surround the Acts, or, above all, of the History of the Canon and the Text. Everywhere we are in contact with a just and vigorous mind, dealing worthily with a great subject, avoiding indeed all merely edifying talk, and not without a certain sharp and homely plainness on occasion, but well stored all the time with feeling and imagination, and never insincere. Dr. Jiilicher employs a method of perfect freedom, but his freedom is no mere cloak for critical license, and his eagerness as critic or historian does not rob him of common sense.

As to his relation to other scholars, all readers of Dr. Harnack will remember that he speaks with special respect of the author of this ʽIntroductionʼ in the preface to his own ʽChronologie der altchristlichen Literatur. When Dr. Weiss on the more conservative side and Professor Jülicher on the liberal side agree, then, says Harnack, it is not necessary for any after-comer to reopen a question. ʽIn the case of the Pastoral Epistles, I regard the results of Holtzmann and Jülicher as proved,ʼ says the Berlin professor, and he presupposes them in his own discussion. There are, indeed, great differences between the two scholars, as anyone who studies the treatment of the Johannine problem, or of certain points connected with the Synoptics, in both, will easily recognise. And the judgment of Jülicher on the ʽpseudepigraphicalʼ element in the earliest literature of Christianity is by no means so favourable to the documents as that of Dr. Harnack. But in the main they are not far apart; and at any rate both stand firmly on the same free historical ground, and would hold it a dishonour to approach their work in any other spirit than that of the student and seeker after truth.

In comparison with the great ʽHinleitungʼ of Dr. Holtzmann, the more recent book shows a greater pliancy and simplicity of method, and less Baurian ʽvigour and rigour.ʼ Dr. Jülicher is further removed from Tübingen than Dr. Holtzmann. His treatment is ʽricher in historical points of viewʼ; his tone more natural and varied; while ʽbehind the documents he looks to the men and their relations, takes into account the influence of changing moods and circumstances upon a writer,ʼ and relies but sparingly on those fine-drawn arguments based wholly on the details of vocabulary or what may be called the psychology of style, which the critic of to-day will only use when he must. His account of the ʽliteratureʼ of the subject is much less full than that of Dr. Holtzmann; but he gains thereby greatly in interest and vivacity for the general reader, while for the student the two books complete each other. With Dr. Theodore Zahn, the champion of ʽorthodoxʼ criticism in Germany, the ʽgreat misleaderʼ1 in the theological field, as Dr. Jülicher calls him, this ʽIntroductionʼ will be found constantly at feud. Here Jülicher stands on the same ground with Harnack. Zahnʼs vast and learned work is the antithesis and the denial of all that the Berlin and Marburg professors hold true. With whom lies the future? Can anyone doubt, who looks abroad a little over the general forces and tendencies, the efforts and victories of modern historical Wissenschaft? With these few words, then, let me commend this book to those who feel that on these questions, these critical and literary questions, with which it deals, really depends our future Christianity. For numbers of minds in England the mere careful study of Dr. Jülicherʼs chapters on the Gospels, or on the history of the Canon, would be a liberal education. Pain might enter into it; but it would be the pain of growth. Loss might attend it; but beyond the loss, beyond the onset and the struggle of a fast advancing knowledge there lies a new kingdom of the spirit. The true knowledge of Christ is in no peril: ducit opes animumque ferro.


October 1903.



1) ʽIrrgärtner,ʼ maker of mazes or labyrinths.