Chapter 1: The Oral Gospel
Earliest gospel was oral. It was the proclamation, by the apostolic church, of the message of salvation. This salvation had already been proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth and the proclamation had been ratified and authenticated by the "mighty works" which God wrought through him -- chiefly now by the mightiest work of all, when God had raised him from the dead and installed him in glory as the Messiah-who-is-to-come. The resurrection of Jesus was the great act of God which had closed the old era and inaugurated the new. For the New Age had already dawned -- the time was short -- the judgment was now near at hand -- therefore, "Repent . . . . Save yourselves from this crooked generation." (Acts 2:38, 40.)
It is clear, both from the speeches in Acts 1 -- 12 and from what is presupposed in the New Testament, especially in the letters of Paul, that the primitive gospel was essentially an eschatological proclamation. The salvation it announced was future -- but in the near future. Like the Old Testament prophets, the church fixed its gaze upon coming events. Only, these events were not, as with the prophets, partly political and partly spiritual, partly mundane and partly supernatural -- though the cause of the coming change was always supernatural. In the case of the primitive Christian community, the coming events were viewed as entirely supernatural. They were nonpolitical, not in the sense of segregation from political life and interests, as the signs of a purely "spiritual" change in the world, say in human hearts, but in the sense of total supernaturalism: the whole present world order, with its politics and its oppression, its hunger and its hatred, was to be completely done away. The Judgment was to usher in the full and final establishment of the divine reign. A pure theocracy, such as the prophets had envisioned and foretold, a state of affairs contemplated by Jesus himself and described in his prayer: "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" -- this was to take the place of "the present evil age."
In the meantime, the followers of Jesus were to live in close fellowship with their exalted Master, now the heavenly Messiah, and with one another; their fellowship, as a later writer put it, was truly "in him." They were to observe the rules set forth in his interpretation of the Law, his Halakak, and submit themselves to the guidance of the Spirit, which he had sent upon them from his place at God’s right hand. Admission into the community of his followers was by the same rite that John and his followers -- and perhaps Jesus himself (Though see John 4:2.) and his disciples -- had observed, namely baptism. It was the normal rite of admission to Judaism, in addition to circumcision -- perhaps even as early as the beginnings of the Christian movement;(See Louis Finkelstein, "The Institution of Baptism for Proselytes." Journal of Biblical Literature, 52:203-11.) and even for born Jews baptism was in-dispensable for admission into the circle of John’s followers, and of Jesus’ after his death and resurrection. Even when the gift of the Spirit came first, baptism was added.(Acts 10:44-48.) The fellowship was not only symbolized but also effected by the common meal, some kind or kiddush or "sanctification," not now of the Sabbath but of the first day of the week, (Prof. E. F. Scott has advanced the view, in his recent work on The Nature of the Early Church (1941), that the Christian observance of Sunday resulted from the celebration of the common meal after the Jewish Sabbath observances were over. This came in the evening -- but on Jewish reckoning it was the beginning of the next day, which was Sunday. See pp. 72 ff.; also S.V. McCasland, "The Origin of the Lords Day,’ Journal of Biblical Literature, 49:65-52, and The Resurrection of Jesus (1932). chap. vi.) which Hellenists were soon to call, appropriately, "the Lord’s day."
The earliest Christian society was thus a band of hope, a group who "waited for the redemption of Israel," confident that the events which had already transpired were the complete guarantee of the certainty of eventual salvation. From the very first this salvation was believed to lie, not in a perfect observance of the Jewish law, whether as expounded by scribes and wise men or even by Jesus himself, but in attachment to the heavenly Messiah, Jesus raised and glorified, who would on the last day acknowledge those who had fearlessly confessed him in spite of persecution and ostracism.(Luke 12:8) A "Christology" lay at the very heart of Christianity -- not only of its theology but of its worship, its teaching, its practice -- from the very outset.
It is no use, then, trying to show that theology was introduced at some later stage, for example by Paul; a theology was implicit in Christian faith, practice, and worship from the beginning. As Dodd finely puts it,( See his History and the Gospel (1938), pp. 26 ff,) fact and interpretation were present from the beginning: the facts about the life of Christ were remembered and handed down solely because of the meaning they possessed for those who cherished and handed down the record.
The facts were, chiefly, these: Jesus of Nazareth, a man anointed by the Spirit and divinely accredited by mighty works, who went about doing good, and healing all those who were oppressed by the devil (for God was with him), who was put to death by the blind and misguided authorities, religious and civil, at Jerusalem, where he was crucified -- all this is preliminary and descriptive, as identifying him, like the central clauses in the Apostles’ Creed. Then comes the statement: God raised him up, and manifested him to certain chosen witnesses, his disciples, who were now commissioned to preach to the people and to testify that he was the one "appointed by God to be the judge of the living and the dead; to him all the prophets bear witness, that through his name everyone who believes on him [trusts in him] shall receive remission of sins" and so be saved in the last great Day, now close at hand.(Acts 10:38-43.) Whether or not the passage from which this abstract is taken was once a written source used by Luke, and therefore a very "early" document, it certainly rings true; and it represents the central conviction uniformly presupposed by the earliest Christianity of which we have any record. Even if it is only a reconstruction by the author of Luke-Acts, it is still a reconstruction by our earliest, and before Eusebius our only surviving, historian of the rise of Christianity -- one who was in a position to know the conviction which inspired the earliest apostolic preaching.
This emphasis upon the fact. Jesus’ resurrection, and upon the message, (a) the expectation of the coming judgment, with Christ as judge, and (b) the promise of salvation of those who repented and trusted in him, taken along with (c) the purely subsidiary and qualifying or evidential reference to Jesus’ earthly life and ministry -- this very relation between hope, proof, and historic fact is the relation which prevailed in the period of the oral tradition of the sayings and deeds of Jesus, and eventually fashioned the structure of the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus of Nazareth, who went about Galilee, "him God raised up"; the Greek is as emphatic as is our English version -- even more so: "this one God raised." So it is in the Gospels: the story of Jesus’ life and teaching, his ministry among the people, his cures and other wonders, is no biography, and was never meant to be. The heart of the story is the passion narrative, and the heart of that is -- not the Cross but -- the Resurrection to which it looks forward. It was because the Resurrection followed it that the Passion had significance. What the witnesses (Vs. 39.) told of his earlier life, his call, his ministry, "what he did bath in the country of the Jews [the Jewish-populated territory in Palestine] and in Jerusalem," and even how he died -- all that is viewed as subsidiary and preparatory to the great fact and act of his resurrection, exaltation, and future coming. It was the fact and act of God himself, God’s intervention in history. Once again now, and finally, "the arm of the Lord" had been "laid bare," as of old. In the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus, God was already "taking his great power" and was about to reign, finally and forever, over that part of his universal Kingdom which had rebelled against his wise and just rule. Human sin and disobedience, with all their long train of evils not only for mankind but also for God’s world generally, were about to be put down forever.
The "earthly ministry" of Jesus, then, is really incidental and preparatory to his exaltation and the coming salvation and judgment. There lies the center of the long perspective; there lies the focus -- in the heavenly places, and in the future -- like a dramatic scene whose center is off-stage, as in the Agamemnon of Aeschylus; like a symphony whose climax is still to come ;(A view which I have tried to set forth in an article, "Eschatology and Reunion," Religion in Life, 10:83-91.) like a building whose interior orientation is incomplete, for example a cathedral in process of building, where all its converging lines point steadily forward to some point in the sanctuary which is still hid by the scaffolding and the mason s tarpaulins. If this is true of the Gospels -- where, if anywhere, the inclination toward a biographical treatment of the life of Jesus would have been present -- it must certainly have been true in the oral period, and probably even more emphatically so. The anecdotes, sayings, parables, controversies coming down from the period of Jesus’ public ministry are told and retold because they are anecdotes about and teaching given by the one who is to be "the judge of the living and the dead." Their "theological" orientation is obvious -- and it has affected their transmission from the very beginning.
Now this is not to say that there prevailed in the primitive church one uniform theology -- let alone any "system" of theology ! -- to which all items in the oral tradition were carefully squared; nor is it to say that during Jesus’ own lifetime, and before the Resurrection, nothing was reported about him, or learned from him, which did not fit a theological scheme. On the contrary, as there are several varieties of theology in the New Testament as a whole, so there is theological variety in the sources underlying the Gospels.("See ‘The Significance of Divergence and Growth in the New Testament," Christendom, , 4:575-87; also B. H. Streeter, "The Rise of Christianity,’ The Cambridge Ancient History, XI (1936), chap. vii.) What we have said applies only generally, and explains (a) the preservation of the tradition as a whole and (b) the particular form given to most of its separate items. This is the whole point of form criticism -- or tradition criticism, as it ought to be called: the units in the evangelic tradition were handed down orally, in separation, and in the form given them by the earliest preachers and teachers of the gospel, the "gospel" being, not the total story of the life of Jesus, but the proclamation of the message of salvation through him, a salvation fully to be effected in the future, though it could be realized in anticipation even now, before the final Parousia.("See my articles: "Form Criticism: A New Method of Research," Religion in Life, 3:351-66; "Further Thoughts on Form Criticism," ibid., 5:532-43.)
As for the reports of the "witnesses" during Jesus’ lifetime, the stories told about him, the reports of his teaching, his sayings, parables, interpretations of the Law, controversies with the scribes, and the application of Old Testament laws and prophecies -- all this was undoubtedly orientated and controlled by the eschatological outlook of his teaching and ministry as a whole, but also undoubtedly it lacked the sharpness of focus which the Resurrection was later to give it. To his contemporaries he was certainly a man anointed by God with the Spirit and with power; a man who went about doing good; a chasid or Jewish saint; perhaps a prophet, "like one of the prophets of old," or even "more than a prophet," perhaps the prophet, "like unto Moses";( "Prof. David E. Adams’ Man of God (1941) is a study of the Old Testament pattern used repeatedly in biographies and presupposed in stories of holy men in the Old Testament and in related literature. This pattern undoubtedly had an influence upon the formation of the gospel tradition.) possibly even the Messiah, the Son of David, or even the heavenly Son of Man of Daniel’s vision, walking the earth incognito and eventually "to come on the clouds." Different persons thought of him in different terms, even within the little band of his intimate disciples. How much more variety must have characterized the views of those outside this circle! Naturally, then, the reports that circulated about him were couched in different terms, and were given a diverse interpretation and orientation.
This oral tradition formed the basis or main body of the evangelic tradition up to but not including the passion narrative; it was the common knowledge of Jesus as it circulated in Palestine during, and soon after, the lifetime of Jesus -- "the report that spread all over Jewish Palestine, as you yourselves know, beginning in Galilee after ‘the baptism’ which John preached" and continuing down to the present.(Acts 10:37) That is to say, the original circulation, transmission, and consequent preservation of the evangelic tradition, by separate items, were not controlled or determined by any one particular theological idea, let alone created by it; but it was nevertheless believed to have a significance which can be stated only theologically, though the controlling theological ideas no doubt varied from person to person, and from group to group(See my article "The Christ of the Gospels," Religion in Life, 10: 430-41.) That is why we have the amount of variety in theological outlook which is still recognizable in the Gospels. In spite of the major control set up by the fact of the Resurrection, the tradition continued to reflect the variety in point of view, in hope, in confidence and expectation that prevailed, even among his close followers, during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Here Jesus is addressed -- and it is reported with apparent approval -- as "Son of David"; here he refers to himself as "the Son of Man"; here he is viewed as exercising an authority greater than Moses, not hesitating to criticize not only the scribes and their "human traditions" but even the sacred Law itself; here he is "a prophet," or "the Coming One," perhaps Elijah, or Jeremiah, or "one of the ancient prophets" come back to earth; here he is "the Christ," "God’s Anointed One," "the Son," "the Beloved." Not all of these terms reflect a postresurrection theology; some of them are surely survivals, embedded deeply in the tradition.
Later "theologies," if we may call them such, were eventually to come on the scene -- the theology of the Hellenists, in Jerusalem, and later in Antioch; the theology of the early Gentile church, before Paul, with its term "Lord" and its view of the gospel as a mystery; above all the theology of Paul himself, with his bold modernizations, his unhesitating combination of things new with things old, of tradition and interpretation in the light of personal religious experience; and then the theologies reflected in Mark, in the Epistle to Hebrews, in James, in the Pastorals, in the Apocalypse of John, in the M stratum of the Gospel of Matthew, in Luke-Acts, and finally in the Gospel and First Epistle of John. Early Christianity was a growing thing, alive, and therefore changing. Variety, or rather unity in variety, is clearly its hallmark and stamp of authenticity. It could not well be otherwise. For early Christianity was no product of a single school, the long shadow cast by a single figure; its New Testament was no product of one sole individual, say Peter, or Paul. Christianity was a wide-spreading social-religious movement, and possessed a consequent variety from the beginning. The Koran, by way of contrast, is the product of one single mind; not so the New Testament, which has all the variety of the Old, and is a "social" product, a "traditional" book -- that is, a book enshrining traditions, letters, anecdotes, revelations, sayings, stories -- and its unity is found only in its central affirmations, convictions, loyalties, and the general way of life which it reflects.
The gospel was first of all an oral gospel -- let us never forget that. In this respect the New Testament was perfectly in accord with the canons of ancient Jewish tradition and literature. The Old Testament "histories" are only the writing down of oral tradition. The records of Jewish saints and teachers, and of their teaching, were likewise handed down orally, as tradition, for a long time before they were committed to writing -- for a much longer period of time, in fact, than was true of the Gospels. When the rabbinic traditions were finally written down, they were far less varied, far less lifelike, far less adequate in sheer quantity than the traditions in the Gospels -- take the traditions of Hillel, Akiba, or Jochanan ben Zakkai, for example, as collected by Bacher in the first volume of his Agada der Tannaiten.(Second ed., Strassburg, 1903) And these traditions, be it observed, were the traditions of legal interpretation or of Bible hermeneutics, for the most part, handed down in schools of Jewish law. Apart from the scattered traditions in the Mishnah and Talmud and the early Midrashim, we should know almost nothing about these great saints and teachers.
Moreover, the oral tradition underlying the Gospels was first formulated in the Aramaic language of the Palestinian populace. When it was that these oral traditions were first translated into Greek, whether early or late, and where this took place, we do not know. There is of course evidence that Greek was spoken in Jewish Palestine( Saul Lieberman, Greek in Jewish Palestine [New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America 1942]. See also the review by A. D. Nock in Anglican Theological Review, April. 1943.) -- more evidence for the second century than for the first -- and there is evidence that "Hellenists," Greek-speaking Jews, were found in the Christian group at Jerusalem from a very early date.(Acts 6:1. The point is justly emphasized by Prof. Burton S. Easton in his book The Gospel Before the Gospel (1928). which contains an excellent criticism of form criticism, and also in his Hale Lectures, Christ in the Gospels (1930). The importance of the Hellenistic element in primitive Christianity is steadily gaining in recognition, along with that of the Jewish substratum. In other words, the earliest Christian community was even more Jewish than we used to think, and at the same time the Hellenistic element in the primitive church went back farther than we once supposed.) Accordingly, it seems not improbable that Aramaic traditions about Jesus were reproduced in oral Greek fairly early, perhaps even during the first decade -- the years between AD. 30 and 40. But such translation was doubtless done piecemeal, one story or saying at a time, and by different persons -- according as each was able," to quote what Papias said of Matthew’s collection of the oracles.(Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3. 39. 16.) Hence the divergent forms of many sayings, as found in the Synoptic parallels; hence also the closest kind of agreement in other passages. These agreements and divergences are not to be credited wholly to the "authors" of the Gospels, the final editors of the tradition. Agreement and divergence no doubt characterized the gospel tradition from the very beginning, and its translation into Greek "in many parts and after divers manners" must have accelerated a process which was perfectly natural in any case. It may be thought that the process would not have gone so far if the tradition had remained in Aramaic. The divergence between Luke’s and Matthew’s versions of the Beatitudes, for example, is as wide as possible; on the other hand, their accounts of John the Baptist’s prediction of the Coming One are almost identical. The translation of the tradition into another language had something to do with this, though we incline to think that Matthew’s Beatitudes have been translated out of Aramaic at a later stage than Luke’s. Their poetic structure and fuller form, and the interpretative clauses which have been added in Matthew’s version seem to reflect a longer period of teaching and devotion in the Aramaic-speaking north-Palestinian or Syrian church.("See C. F. Burney, The Poetry of Our Lord (1925), pp. 166 ff. It should be noted, however, that the added verses 5 and 8 may be influenced by the Septuagint.) At the same time, there are passages in the Gospels that can hardly have received their present form in Aramaic; their language, structure, ethos, theology, all seem to point to a purely Greek-speaking community for their main line of transmission and final formulation.(See Martin Dibelius, The Message of Jesus Christ , esp. Part II, pp. 166 ff.; K. Kundsin, chap. xi in my Form Criticism ).
Several eminent scholars are convinced that the Gospels themselves, and not merely their underlying units of tradition, were originally composed in Aramaic and later translated into Greek. This theory we shall consider in detail in a later chapter; but even this theory, complicated and unnecessary as we may think it to be, presupposes a period of oral transmission before the composition -- or compilation -- of the written Gospels took place. The process, as I have said, is thoroughly natural and precisely what we should antecedently expect in such an area. It is flying in the face of the, alas, too little-known canons of Semitic historiography (See Julius Bewer, The Literature of the Old Testament [1922; 3rd ed. 1940], chap. iv, "The Growth of Historical Literature," also chaps. xv, xviii; C. F. Kent, Israel’s Historical and Biographical Narratives , esp. the Introduction; Otto Eissfeldt, Einleitung in das Alte Testament , §§ 5, 16, 26-30, 35-38; Johannes Hempel, Die Althebräische Literatur, ; G. W. Wade, New, Testament History . chap. v, "Prevailing ideas and Methods of Jewish Historians.") to assume that the Gospels are personal memoirs, or biographies, or scientific histories -- say of the ancient Greek kind -- rather than "traditional books," The only "memoirs" in the Old Testament are those of Nehemiah, and possibly those of Ezra. The prophetic cycles in Samuel and Kings are traditional; so are the "court memoirs" of David’s reign; Jeremiah’s "Confessions," to use Professor Skinner’s term, were compiled by another, or by others; First Maccabees is not a memoir but a history, using sources; it is only Nehemiah who uses the first person singular in the autobiographic sense. Outside the Old Testament, Josephus’ Autobiography, appended to his Antiquities, is modeled on a Greco-Roman pattern and is addressed to Greco-Roman readers; so are Philo’s Legation to Caius and his Flaccus. We have, accordingly, no right to expect the Gospels to give us personal memoirs. Justin’s phrase, "The Memoirs of the Apostles," (Apology 67. 3.) was either a careless one or was meant only to suggest an analogy. Professor Turner, I believe, went much too far in proposing ("Commentary on the Gospel of Mark," p. 9b, in C. Gore, A New Commentary on Holy Scripture , New Testament, p. 48.) to turn Mark’s third person plural "they" into a first person, we or I. "All the city was gathered at my door"; "We followed him, . . . . and he said to us"; "As I was beneath in the court." ("Mark 1:33, 36-38; 14-66.) One might play this game indefinitely: "As he sat on the Mount of Olives, . . . . we asked him privately (Mark 13:3.) The fact remains, neither Mark nor any other of the Gospels is written in the first person. And although, as Streeter (Especially in his unpublished lectures on "The Historical Evidence for the Life of Christ" at Colgate-Rochester Theological Seminary in 1934.) and others have insisted, the tradition must go back to persons, to individuals, and is no impersonal creation of some unknown social-religious energy, a kind of "group consciousness," working automatically in the Christian community, still the transmission of the tradition was certainly social, and to some degree, therefore, impersonal.
It is the purpose of this volume to present certain studies of the gospel at the point where the oral tradition was being crystallized in writing; and for this reason we shall pay chief attention to the Gospel of Mark, though the other early source or cycle -- Q, the "Sayings Source" -- will also engage our attention now and then, But we cannot deal with that source in detail at present; indeed, we shall not have the time to deal adequately with Mark, and can study only some of its leading features and the problems to which these give rise. The point of view has already been sufficiently indicated. Such an attempt as that of the late Professor Turner mentioned above to view the Gospel as autobiographical, at least from 1:14 to 14:72, with the exception of the doublets in 7:24-8:10 (or 12), we cannot follow. Far more promising is the approach of Professor Branscomb in "The Moffatt New Testament Commentary" (1937), who views the Gospel as based upon "the common tradition of the Gentile churches," though the use of sources, even of written sources, is not only not denied but even presupposed in the discussion of more than one section of the Gospel. This commentary and the one by A. E. J. Rawlinson in the Westminster series (1925) are the best we have in English. The works of the late Professor Bacon on this Gospel are always rewarding -- The Beginnings of Gospel Story (1909), Was Mark a Roman Gospel? (1919), The Gospel of Mark (1925) -- as is the older commentary of Allan Menzies, The Earliest Gospel (1901).(It is surprising how Menzies’ introduction in this volume anticipates present-day form criticism. So also is that by W. C. Allen (1915). Swete’s commentary is still important, at least philologically. So is Johannes Weiss’s Das ä1teste Evangelium (1903), especially for literary analysis and interpretation, and also his commentary in Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments (1906; third edition, posthumous, 1917). The useful commentary by Professor John N. Davies in The Abingdon Bible Commentary (1929) is widely known and influential. Wellhausen’s Einleitung (second edition, 1911) and commentary (second edition, 1909) will never be out of date! The commentary by E. Klostermann, in Lietzmann’s Handbuch zum Neuen Testament (third edition, 1936), is indispensable. Loisy’s work in Les évangiles synoptiques (1907), summarized in his L’évangile selon Marc (1912), has been used by all scholars for a generation. Lohmeyer’s commentary in the Meyer series (1937) is one of the most thorough and most stimulating commentaries ever written. The student should not, however, undertake to use it without carefully reading through the book as a whole. Otherwise, he will be likely to gain a wrong impression of some passages. He should also read the little volume which Professor Lohmeyer wrote as a prolegomenon to the commentary, entitled Galiläa und Jerusalem, in which he deals with the question of the Jerusalem or Galilean location of the resurrection appearances and comes to the conclusion that both Galilee and Jerusalem were centers of primitive Christianity. We shall deal with this hypothesis later in the present volume.(Chap. vi, pp. 125 ff.) Among important commentaries is the one by Père M.-J. Lagrange; the fifth edition appeared in 1929. This is a really great work of exegesis, no less valuable to Protestants than to Catholics, although naturally on some points of theology we cannot follow the author all the way. The second edition, revised and enlarged, of the late C. G. Montefiore’s Synoptic Gospels (1927) contains in Volume I a full-length commentary on the Gospel of Mark from a liberal Jewish point of view. This important work was supplemented by the volume Rabbinic Literature and Gospel Teachings (1930) The additional notes contained in this latter volume deal -- naturally with Matthew and Luke rather than with Mark -- since Mark gives such a very brief account of Jesus’ teaching. The older supplement to Montefiore’s commentary, the two volumes by Israel Abrahams entitled Studies in Pharisaism and the Gospels (1917, 1924), is still as valuable as when it was first published. The great work by Strack and Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, Volume 11(1924), contains fifty-four pages on the Gospel of Mark. Naturally the great bulk of material on the Gospels -- 1055 pages -- is found in Volume I dealing with the Gospel of Matthew, and also in the two volumes of excursi (1928). The commentary on Mark should of course be read in connection with these other volumes in the set. More recent work on the sources and composition of the Second Gospel may be seen in such a book as J. M. C. Crum’s St. Mark’s Gospel: Two Stages of Its Making (1936); also in A. T. Cadoux, The Sources of the Second Gospel (n.d.), Rudolph Thiel, Drei Markus-Evangelien (1938), and -- as supplying criteria for these hypotheses -- in M. Zerwick, Untersuchungen zum Markus-Stil (1937). These books are of special interest to source critics and represent in our generation the sort of analysis which forty years ago was associated with the name of Emil Wendling (Ur-Marcus, 1905; Die Entstehung des Marcus-Evangeliums, 1908). The main difficulty with most partition theories is, of course, the homogeneity of Mark’s style.
The works on form criticism, all of which naturally deal with the Gospel of Mark, are quite well known. M. Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel (English translation, 1925), K. L. Schmidt, Der Rahmen der Geschichte Jesu (1919), Rudolf Bultmann, Die Geschichte der synoptischen Tradition (second edition, 1931) -- these books are all known to workers in the field and are of course m constant use. My own Form Criticism: A New Method of New Testament Research (1934) contains a translation of "The Study of the Synoptic Gospels" by Rudolf Bultmann and of "Primitive Christianity in the Light of Gospel Research" by Karl Kundsin, two excellent little works introductory to the subject.
As for the text of the Gospel, students now have the advantage of Erwin Nestle’s new edition (the seventeenth, 1941) with its full apparatus of variant readings, handy size, and low price; S. C. E. Legg’s full -- if not always accurate -- apparatus in the new "Oxford Tischendorf" (1935); and F. L. Cross’s edition of Hans Lietzmann’s edition of A. Huck, A Synopsis of the First Three Gospels (ninth edition, with Introduction in English, section headings in German and English, text and apparatus in Greek, 1936).