The purpose of this "Modern Reader's Guide to the Gospels" is simple: to enable the reader to understand intelligently four basic Christian documents. I am convinced that lay groups in the churches and students on the campuses are beginning to realize that careful Bible study is one form of Christian obedience that must not be avoided. This guide is meant to be a contribution to that study, without which Protestantism, cannot effectively live, think, or act.
By itself, this volume would be useless and unintelligible. The reader will need copies of the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These can be found in most homes and bookstores. Even more helpful would be a copy of Gospel Parallels, published by Thomas Nelson & Sons. Part One, combining the gospels of Matthew and Luke, has a slightly different form and function from Parts Two and Three, dealing with Mark and with John, because the writers of Matthew and Luke have a single purpose. Full coverage of all the material in these two gospels could not be achieved, but the major sections are dealt with, the material is arranged in a roughly chronological way, and the reader will be able to discover what the authors of these gospels were attempting to do as they presented their witness.
There are many useful and even sprightly books about the Bible on the market today. Their function is in general to make us feel that we ought to read the Bible and that we might find it enjoyable. The Bible, however, still presents some problems to the modern reader as he faces the actual text, and so this book tries to meet those problems for the person -- alone or in a group --who is willing to sit before the material and allow it to speak to him.
There is little that is original in the content of this guide. J have drawn heavily on the work of experts in the field of biblical studies: William Manson, G. F. P. Cox, Sherman Johnson, S. MacLean Gilmour and some others, in the guide to Matthew and Luke; Frederick C. Grant, A. M. Hunter, C. H. Dodd, Vincent Taylor, and some others, in the guide to Mark; and W. F. Howard, C. K. Barrett, William Temple, Sir Edwyn Hoskyns, and some others, in the guide to John. In one sense, the work of the author has been little more than that of an editor, but the form may be slightly more original. This is neither a study guide such as the student movement sometimes uses nor a commentary such as scholars hope that Christian ministers use. it is something in between --fuller and more technical than the first, less technical and more practical than the second-and therefore of more value, I hope, for the layman.
For those who prefer it, this one volume guide to the gospels is also available as three separate, soft-covered Reflection Books: The Modern Reader's Guide to Matthew and Luke, The Modern Reader's Guide to Mark, and The Modern Reader's Guide to John.
The citations and references to the Bible herein are from the Revised Standard Version of The Holy Bible.