Writing this book has taken a good deal of my energy and time since 1959, when it was suggested to me by Eugene Exman and Melvin Arnold. The most difficult part I found to be the expression of the principles of interpretation (Part I) and the attempt to co-ordinate them with what I had already learned about the New Testament. Obviously much remains to be done; I hope that others will do it.
I have argued repeatedly in the book that the New Testament cannot be understood apart from its context in the early Christian Church. This statement, of course, can be reversed. The early Church is incomprehensible unless one reads the New Testament - and I should add that, on a much lower level, the same thing can be said about this book. It is an introduction to the New Testament and is not intended to be a substitute for it.
The omission of practically all references to current literature on the New Testament is intentional. My views concerning modern American study in this field are set forth in an essay to appear under the auspices of the Ford Foundation Project in the Study of the Humanities, and generally speaking I have tried to set forth my own views without too much reference to those of others. Most of the statements about the New Testament which 1 read are based on presuppositions which usually are not stated. This book at least has the merit of stating the presuppositions, whether or not they are adequately worked out.
It would be wrong to hold my principal New Testament teachers responsible for anything in this book; but conscious and unconscious influences are hard to trace; and I should certainly not refrain from mentioning the debt I owe, for encouraging me in these studies, to my father and to my teachers at the Harvard Divinity School: H. J. Cadbury and A. D. Nock. The quality of their scholarship has inspired me for more than twenty years.