The whole matter of Christian origins has become in recent years the subject of much discussion among scholars, and also of wide concern among many laymen. A great amount of this interest has been stimulated by the discoveries of the Qumran scrolls, but other important data have also contributed. The Gnostic library found in Egypt has just begun to be available. Much significant archeological discovery continues at the present time. Some of the earliest documents of the Greek New Testament are just coming to light, notably those of the Bodmer Library. Literary interpretation has again involved problems of historical reconstruction, as in the so-called "demythologizing" controversies, which continue strong today. These include the question of the contemporary relevance of the documents of early Christianity, an area of current concern in relation to the theological use and interpretation of the Bible and to a theological and philosophical understanding of the nature and destiny of man. The present world situation has led to renewed comparative study of Christian and other historic world religions, which have begun to grope toward some common ground in the face of dialectical materialism and growing secularism. For similar reasons integrative and ecumenical movements continue within Christendom, the basis for these always involving questions of the meaning and relevance of the "apostolic witness" reflected in the earliest documents of the Christian faith.
The present volume treats certain main topics of concern in this area from the standpoint of biblical scholarship; and these investigations illustrate the kind of study that must support any valid generalizations and conclusions about Christian beginnings. In this and other areas of scholarly inquiry Professor Willoughby himself has produced exemplary studies, and his many students inevitably have inherited something of his spirit and method.
Two members of Dr. Willoughby's last seminar of his teaching career at Chicago, Rodney Hood and Horst Moehring, deserve mention here for their enthusiastic interest in the preparation of a volume of studies such as this, and it seemed fitting that they should contribute essays of their own to the collection. I wish also to thank Dr. Hood for assistance in various ways during my absence from