From the beginnings of the Bible to the end, the advance in the idea of God was extreme: Beginning with a territorial deity who loved his clansmen and hated the remainder of mankind, it ends with a great multitude out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, worshiping one universal Father; beginning with a god who walked in the garden in the cool of the day, it ends with the God whom "no man hath seen…at any time."
Paul began Christian literature with these two short letters. Before he was finished with his missionary journeys he had written more than one-fourth of what is now included in the New Testament. In these first letters we see the difficulties that already were besetting the small new groups of Christians, and the patience, skill, and boldness with which their founder looked after their development.
The real message of Jesus, particularly his call of the kingdom is too easily glossed over or superficially understood. Is the meaning of the kingdom prophetic, or is it apocalyptic? What kind of coming kingdom did Jesus expect?
From a survey of current German discussion we may conclude that the proposal of a new quest of the historical Jesus, originally made within the context of the ‘post-Bultmannian’ direction of leading pupils of Bultmann, has broadened itself, not only in traditionally conservative circles, but also by support from the Barthian side as well as from Bultmann himself.
Luke traces the ancestry of Jesus not simply to David and Abraham, but back to Adam the son of God, thus emphasizing his human nature more than his Jewish blood, and preparing the way for his later emphasis on the universal elements in Jesus’ ministry. More than any other evangelist Luke claims to have a historical purpose. His aim is to acquaint himself with all the sources, oral and written, for his work, and to set forth in order the results he ascertains.
Some were still alive who knew what courage and perseverance and faith it had taken to bring about the spread of Christianity through the Roman world, and they felt that it would strengthen the faith and stimulate the zeal of the Christian believers around them to hear the story from the beginning. In such a spirit the physician Luke, perhaps in some city on the Aegean Sea like Ephesus, began to write the story of the Greek mission.
So symbolic and enigmatical is the language of the Revelation of John that few outside of Jewish or Christian circles can have understood its meaning, or guessed that by Babylon the prophet meant the Roman Empire. Its value to the frightened and wavering Christians of Asia must have been great, for it promised them an early and complete deliverance, and cheered them to steadfastness and devotion.
To show his readers the extraordinary value of what they are in danger of throwing away, the writer proceeds to explain to them the messianic priesthood of Christ and its superiority to the old Jewish priesthood. To Jesus’ religious significance the writer couples the practical lesson of drawing near to God through the new and living way which Jesus has opened.
The Empire’s condemnation of the Christians put a peculiar strain upon the churches all over the Roman world. The ignorant masses already regarded the Christians as depraved and vicious and credited them with eating human flesh and with other monstrous practices. But quite aside from this the Empire had adjudged being a Christian a crime punishable by death. In this situation a Christian elder of Rome wrote to his brethren throughout Asia Minor a letter of advice and encouragement.
In James the Christian preacher tells his hearers that life’s trials, vicissitudes, and temptations will perfect character, if they are met in dependence upon God. But his hearers must not merely profess religion, but really practice purity and humanity. They must be doers that work, not hearers that forget.