By Harris Franklin Rall
The character of this volume is explained in part by the title of the series to which it belongs, "The Kingdom of God Series." Under that general title there are a number of studies covering Old and New Testament times and Christian history since Jesus' day. The title itself expresses the conviction that the meaning of history is to be found in the thought of a new world which God is shaping, a kingdom of truth and righteousness which is being established upon earth.
Such a dynamic conception involves a correspondingly dynamic treatment. Too often Bible study is a gathering together of all possible material, exegetical, critical, archaeological, theological, so long as it has some reference to the Bible. The interest of this series is vital. Its primary concern is religious, that is, with the way in which these records bear on human faith and life, and with the light which they throw upon this story of the making of a new humanity. Here lies the supreme meaning of the Bible. And this is history in the true sense, not the indiscriminate record of past occurrence, but the study of that which lives on in our institutions and ideas to-day.
This interest governs us in our study of the teachings of Jesus. Our task is first of all historical in the narrower sense, namely, to understand the message of Jesus in the setting of his time and in that succession in which he came. Critical results need to be utilized, even where critical processes are not set forth. The ever-present danger must be avoided of making Jesus speak as a "modern," whether liberal or conservative, theologian or social reformer. Nor are we to extort answers to questions which Jesus never considered. But when we have agreed upon the need of this strict historical method, then there are other interests still to be weighed. We study the teachings of Jesus because he has given the supreme answer to man's deepest questions. Our question is, What were the great truths that formed his faith? What was that message which with increasing power has commanded the conscience and convictions of men even to our day?
A Life of Jesus, by the same author, has been issued as a companion volume. It should be at hand for reference or for collateral reading. The message of Jesus and his life must be studied together if either is to be rightly understood.
Harris Franklin Rall.