The name of Martin Dibelius, of the University of Heidelberg, is well known among Biblical scholars throughout the world. We in this country knew him, not only through his learned works in New Testament criticism and exegesis, but also as a result of his memorable visit in 1937 when he spent several weeks at our leading universities and theological seminaries. It was during this visit that he delivered the lectures on “The Sermon on the Mount,” published in 1940. Many persons think of him chiefly in connection with Form Criticism; but he was equally eminent as an exegete, having published the famous commentary on The Epistle of James in the Meyer series (in 1920) and three volumes on other New Testament epistles in Lietzmann’s Handbuch. In 1936 appeared his introduction to the New Testament, A Fresh Approach to the New Testament and Early Christian Literature. Several of his books on Form Criticism have also appeared in English: From Tradition to Gospel (1935) Gospel Criticism and Christology, (1935); and The Message of Jesus Christ (1939). The present volume was published in 1939 in the Sammlung Goschen. Readers will find in this volume the same characteristic qualities that are found in all of Dr. Dibelius’ work. He was not only a learned scholar; he was also a devout, earnest, Christian believer. His connection with the ecumenical movement and the World Council of Churches, his deep concern for theological education and for the whole life of the Christian Church, are well known. It was due to the tragic circumstances that led up to the war-- as a non-Nazi he was constantly under the surveillance of the Gestapo -- and to the tragedy of the war itself that his relations with Christian leaders in other lands were temporarily interrupted. His death on November 11, 1947, at the age of sixty-four, was undoubtedly hastened by the illness and privations caused by the war. Modern New Testament scholarship is far the richer by his having lived, far the poorer by his departure from us.
Charles Baker Hedrick was born in Palatka, Florida, January 31, 1877, and was educated at St. Paul’s School, Concord; Trinity College, Hartford (1899); General Theological Seminary (1906); and Oxford University (1910—I911). Between college and seminary he taught for two years at St. Luke’s School, Wayne, Pennsylvania; and between seminary and postgraduate study abroad he was rector of a parish in Starke, Florida. Returning home after his two years of study abroad (chiefly at Oxford, but also in Germany, where he met and married Hedwig von Bötticher, of Gottingen), he began his career as teacher of New Testament at Berkeley Divinity School (1911), then located at Middletown, Connecticut, now at New Haven. For thirty-two years he continued at Berkeley, until his death on January 12, 1943. His contributions to Biblical scholarship were chiefly articles, reviews, and chapters in joint works (e.g., the volume in honor of Professor C. F. Johnson, of Hartford, in 1928, and The Beginnings of Our Religion, in 1934). He was engaged upon this translation of Professor Dibelius’ Jesus at the time of his death. His main field of interest was the Gospels, above all, the Fourth Gospel; and his whole life exemplified the spirit of the great Teacher at whose feet he continually sat. As was said of another saintly teacher, he never wrote a life of Christ — but lived it.
Since it was at my suggestion that Dr. Hedrick undertook the translation of this volume, I have felt it my duty to carry the work to completion. He left behind him a rough first draft, containing a number of alternative renderings of words and phrases. This draft went as far as the end of Chapter IX. I have revised this first draft and have completed the work, and I send it out now as a dual tribute to these two eminent Christian scholars and teachers of theology, the author and the translator, one a European and the other an American, both of them devout and learned Christian scholars. Before his death, Professor Dibelius kindly sent me the changes and additions for the second edition, and so the translation is up to date. I am confident that many students of the Bible, and many other readers as well, will find in this choice little book the quintessence of a soundly historical and at the same time a deeply religious understanding of our Lord and his mission.
Frederick. C. Grant Union Theological Seminary, New York.