by Martin Dibelius

Martin Dibelius occupied the chair of New Testament at the University of Heidelberg for thirty two years.  He wrote extensively, and many of his works have been translated into English.  In 1937 he visited the United States, delivering the Shaffer Lectures at Yale University.

Jesus was translated by Charles B. Hedrick, teacher of New Testament at Berkeley Divinity School, and Frederick C. Grant (who completed the translation after Dr. Hedrick’s death). Dr. Grant was Edwin Robinson Professor of Biblical Theology at Union Theological Seminary, New York. Published in 1949 by Westminster Press, Philadelphia. This book was prepared for Religion Online by Richard and Sue Kendall.


(ENTIRE BOOK) Dr. Dibelius describes the New Testament as the humanly conditioned deposit of an historical event, and considers that the crucial question in the struggle over Christianity is whether God made his will manifest in this event. Doing this, he reconstructs the life and teachings of Jesus, showing the real content and significance of what Jesus said and what he did.


  • Forward
  • Chapter I: Jesus in History Secular attacks on Christianity demand that the church take seriously the valid historical roots of the Jesus record.  Chapters which follow deal with a scientific presentation of the event, with the hope that it can strengthen and inform those persons of faith who must deal with the meaning of the event as a revelation of God.
  • Chapter II: The Sources This chapter deals with the sources upon which a historical knowledge of Jesus can be based. A small amount of non-Christian testimony is presented, but the major sources are the Christian witnesses, the Gospel tradition, and the narrative sections of the Synoptic gospels.
  • Chapter III: People Land, Descent This chapter asks the questions, “What were the people like, the political situation and the area of Palestine to which Jesus came?  To which people and race did Jesus belong?  What was the religious community like at that time?
  • Chapter IV: The Movement Among the Masses This chapter traces the chronology of the Life of Jesus, ahd the historicity of his movement in its own time.
  • Chapter V: The Kingdom of God Jesus defines his movement in terms of two opposites:  A conviction that the Kingdom of God is future and opposed to this world, and  a consciousness that the Kingdom is already in the process of coming, and has already put itself in motion.
  • Chapter VI: The Signs of the Kingdom Through Jesus’ actions—his judging, criticizing, warning, encouraging, promising and healing—the signs of the Kingdom are present, not the Kingdom in its fulness.
  • Chapter VII: The Son of Man What Jesus demands is not a formal confession of his Messiahship, with political or other overtones,  but that one sees in his acts God’s working, perceives in his appearing God’s coming with his Kingdom.
  • Chapter VIII: Man’s Status Before God Jesus does not give a series of rules for a life of faith, enabling one to get “right” with God.  God’s absolute will cannot be compressed into a law for this world.  It can be set forth only in “signs”, evidences of the Kingdom.  Therefore he demand of Jesus in its deepest meaning does not run:  So must thou act, but rather, So must thou be!  What he wants to create is not ascetic or ethical achievements, but persons who in word and deed witness to, show forth, God’s Kingdom.
  • Chapter IX: The Opposing Force The author examines the New Testament record of the build-up of secular and religious forces which lead to the resistance to and rejection of Jesus, and ultimately to his being accused, judged and crucified.