Harry Whittaker
Studies in the Gospels

Foreword (To be read)

I fear that this book is over-ambitious. It attempts a fairly detailed study of every paragraph in the four Gospels, and in such a way as to be of use to general readers and students alike. I can only hope that both classes will be tolerant of the results.

It was back in 1933 when I decided that in the whole range of Holy Scripture nothing demands scrupulous attention more than the four Gospels do. But more than a life-time is needed for the study of them, for they are the most close-packed records that ever were written. So although in this book there is no lack of attention to detail, it is not unlikely that a good deal has been missed.

Here are a few general observations which may be of help or interest to the readers.

There is no apology for the marked Old Testament emphasis here, for it becomes more and more evident that the Gospels, shot through with allusions to the older Scriptures, demand to be interpreted in the light of them. "New Testament Christianity" is a religion of ignorance.
References to various authorities on the Gospels are few. Had I been systematic in this, the book would have been overloaded with a mass of references of the sort most readers have no use for.
Also, the original copious footnotes have been resolutely eliminated. To some extent the notes at the end of each chapter have taken over their function. But for the most part those notes consist of additional details of the sort that students may appreciate and which stubbornly refuse to blend into the main text.
Even so, the body of the text has a fair number of extra Bible references (useful, I hope) and parenthetic additions. If to some extent these make for less smooth reading, I apologize. It was difficult to know what else to do with them.
Inevitably, repetitions of ideas and emphasis will be found to crop up from time to time. In the first draft they grew like weeds. Even now, in spite of ruthless excision, some still survive.
The original volume (1 st edition) stopped short at the burial of our Lord. That was a bad mistake on my part. Of course these Studies should have run on to the very end of the Gospels. Now they do, through the incorporation of my book: "He is risen indeed", largely re-written.
The order of the Studies is approximately that followed by any standard Harmony of the Gospels.
The mystery of both double and single quote marks calls for explanation. As far as possible the former are used for exact quotation of Bible text. The latter come in where there has been an attempt at paraphrase (and, now and then, at imagining what might have been said).
But it is necessary to say that, in spite of some appearance to the contrary, use of imagination in re-constructing Gospel scenes has been very sparing. A big proportion of what might seem to be based on imagination is actually there in the Gospel text. In some places there is inference with a high degree of probability.
It is not to be hoped that complete freedom from error in interpretation has been achieved. A note to the author about any serious mistake would be appreciated.
These Studies have also been tape-recorded by the author (not very efficiently, I fear) and are available from:

The Williamsburg Foundation, 1620 Lititz Pike, Lancaster. Pa, USA 17601.
It is not possible to set down here at all adequately my degree of indebtedness to a wide circle of good friends. But it would be churlish not to mention gratefully:
  • my wife and her unflagging enthusiasm for these written studies, and for the tape-recorded version.
  • the noble army of typists (one of them especially) who did such splendid copying, and without a single grumble.
  • another noble army of well-wishers whose encouragement suggests a greater confidence in this undertaking than my own.
  • a certain out-size enthusiast whose optimistic bullying chivvied me, and whose faith shamed me, into undertaking what I had decided was a quite impracticable project.
  • the incredible patience and good temper of my printer. To all of these, thanks, thanks indeed
And now I trust that I may, without presumption, consign to the care and blessing of the Lord Jesus this sustained attempt to get to know Him better and to bring Him more intimately into the lives of others.

Suggestions on how to read this book

These Studies are by no means all on the same level of readability. Where the going is deemed to be rather easier there is an asterisk at the heading. The general reader (and perhaps the more diligent student also?) will probably prefer to concentrate on these first, omitting also all the end-of-chapter notes. Then after a while, a complete re-read.
Perhaps eventually time will be found to work systematically through the volume once again, this time giving attention to the notes as well and also following up the references.
Others will be content to use the book simply as a work of reference, going as occasion requires to this section or that. The list of Contents pp VII-XII (and, failing that, the Index) should help such to find fairly readily what they are after.
Will all readers please get accustomed to two standard abbreviations, which crop up frequently:
  • LXX means, of course, the Septuagint Greek Version of the Old Testament — indispensable!
  • s.w. means "same word" — it is an abbreviation good Bible students can do without.

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