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PREFACE T HE impulse to write narrative accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus came rather late into the history of New Testament com- position. The first books written were letters, called out by particular emergencies, and were preserved by reason of the practical wisdom of the advice given by the apostolic authors. Some of the later letters assumed a more formal character, and one or two of them, like Romans and Hebrews, evolved into doctrinal treatises in epistolary form. After a time there were compiled little collections of detached "say- ings" of Jesus, which later were followed by attempts to tell the story of his life. By the time the Gospel according to Luke was written, many had "taken in hand" to give account of the life of Jesus. Of these early narratives, four have been preserved. We have good rea- son to believe that these are much the best of the attempts to tell the story of Jesus. Such apocryphal gospels as have come down to us either entire or in fragments give us little oc- casion to regret the loss of the others. vii