He was born at Edenfield, Lancs on 1 January 1887. After a short period as a pupil teacher, he trained for the ministry at Richmond College. He was in circuit work for twenty years, before being appointed NT Tutor at Headingley College in 1930, becoming Principal in 1936. Despite having had no university training (his first degree was the external London BD) he pursued his studies during his years in circuit and earned a PhD for a thesis, published by Oxford University Press on The Historical Evidence for the Virgin Birth (1920). In 1926 he was awarded a DD for work on Luke's Gospel.
He later published a series of NT studies, including trilogies on the atonement (Jesus and his Sacrifice (1937), The Atonement in NT Teaching (1940) and Forgiveness and Reconciliation (1948)) and on Christology (The Names of Jesus (1953), The Life and Ministry of Jesus (1955) and The Person of Christ in NT Teaching (1958)), as well as a major commentary on Mark's Gospel (1952). His account of form criticism in The Formation of the Gospel Tradition (1945) introduced it to many students in a readily understandable way. He was also noted for his championship of Streeter's Proto-Luke hypothesis (in Behind the Third Gospel (1926) and The Passion Narrative of St Luke (1972). He was elected fellow of the British Academy in 1954 and President of the Society for NT Study in 1954-55. His scholarship was recognized by honorary degrees from the universities of Leeds, Dublin and Glasgow and the Burkitt Medal fr Biblical Studies in 1960. He died at Otterbourne, Hants. on 28 November 1968.