gospel, good news

Young People's Bible Dictionary

by Barbara Smith (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965)

gospel. Good news. See Luke 2:10; 4:16-19 for explanation. Also Matt. 4:23; Mark 1:1; Acts 8:40; Phil. 1:12-14; 1 Thess. 2:9. From the second century on, the name given to the four N.T. books about Jesus Christ.

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words

Edited by W.E. Vine (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1981)

This is an excellent book to add to your library. Due to its consolidation of corresponding Hebrew and Greek terms under one heading, and its use of the Strong's number system, this is a very useful book. The paperback edition is conveniently small (6"x4"x1.5"), and its list price is only $10 (US). It is available at Border's Books at or Christian Book Distributors at

GOSPEL (Noun and Verb: to preach)

A. Noun.

EUANGELION (euaggelion, 2098) originally denoted a reward for good tidings; later, the idea of reward dropped, and the word stood for the good news itself. The Eng. word gospel, i.e. good message, is the equivalent of euangelion (Eng., evangel). In the N.T. it denotes the good tidings of the Kingdom of God and of salvation through Christ, to be received by faith, on the basis of His expiatory death, His burial, resurrection, and ascension, e.g., Acts 15:7; 20:24; 1 Pet. 4:17. Apart from those references and those in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and Rev. 14:6, the noun is confined to Paul’s Epistles. The Apostle uses it of two associated yet distinct things, (a) of the basic facts of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, e.g., 1Cor. 15:1-3; (b) of the interpretation of these facts, e.g., Rom. 2:16; Gal. 1:7, 11; 2:2; in (a) the Gospel is viewed historically, in (b) doctrinally, with reference to the interpretation of the facts, as is sometimes indicated by the context.

The following phrases describe the subjects or nature or purport of the message; it is the gospel of God, Mark 1:14; Rom. 1:1; 15:16; 2 Cor. 11:7; 1 Thess. 2:2, 9; 1 Pet. 4:17; God, concerning His Son, Rom. 1:1-3; His Son, Rom. 1:9; Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Mark 1:1; our Lord Jesus, 2 Thess. 1:8; Christ, Rom. 15:19, etc.; the glory of Christ, 2 Cor. 4:4; the grace of God, Acts 20:24; the glory of the blessed God, 1 Tim. 1:11; your salvation, Eph. 1:13; peace, Eph. 6:15. cp. also “the gospel of the Kingdom,” Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; “an eternal gospel,” Rev. 14:6.

In Gal. 2:14, “the truth of the gospel” denotes, not the true gospel, but the true teaching of it, in contrast to perversions of it.

The following expressions are used in connection with the Gospel: (a) with regard to its testimony; (1) kerusso, to preach it as a herald, e.g., Matt. 4:23; Gal. 2:2 (see Preach); (2) laleo, to speak, 1 Thess. 2:2; (3) diamarturomai, to testify (thoroughly), Acts 20:24; (4) euangelizo, to preach, e.g., 1 Cor. 15:1; 2 Cor. 11:7; Gal. 1:11 (see B, No. 1 below); (5) katangello, to proclaim, 1 Cor. 9:14; (6) douleuo eis, to serve unto (“in furtherance of”), Phil. 2:22; (7) sunathleo en, to labour with in, Phil. 4:3; (8) hierourgeo, to minister, Rom. 15:16; (8) pleµroo, to preach fully, Rom. 15:19; (10) sunkakopatheo, to suffer hardship with, 2 Tim. 1:8; (b) with regard to its reception or otherwise: (1) dechomai, to receive, 2 Cor. 11:4; hupakouo, to hearken to, or obey, Rom. 10:16; 2 Thess. 1:8; pisteuo en, to believe in, Mark 1:15; metastrepho, to pervert, Gal. 1:7.

Note: In connection with (a), the Apostle’s statement in 1 Cor. 9:23 is noticeable, “I do all things for the Gospel’s sake, that I may be a joint partaker thereof,” R.V., for the incorrect A.V., “that I might be partaker thereof with you.”

B. Verbs.

1. EUANGELIZO ÷ (euaggelizo, 2097), to bring or announce glad tidings (Eng., evangelize), is used (a) in the Active Voice in Rev. 10:7 (“declared”) and 14:6 (“to proclaim,” R.V., A.V., “to preach”); (b) in the Passive Voice, of matters to be proclaimed as glad tidings, Luke 16:16; Gal. 1:11; 1 Pet. 1:25; of persons to whom the proclamation is made, Matt. 11:5; Luke 7:22; Heb. 4:2, 6; 1 Pet. 4:6; (c) in the Middle Voice, especially of the message of salvation, with a personal object, either of the Person preached, e.g., Acts 5:42; 11:20; Gal. 1:16, or, with a preposition, of the persons evangelized, e.g., Acts 13:32, “declare glad tidings;” Rom. 1:15; Gal. 1:8; with an impersonal object, e.g., “the word,” Acts 8:4; “good tidings,” 8:12; “the word of the Lord,” 15:35; “the gospel,” 1 Cor. 15:1; 2 Cor. 11:7; “the faith,” Gal. 1:23; “peace,” Eph. 2:17; “the unsearchable riches of Christ,” 3:8. See Preach, Shew, Tidings.

2. PROEUANGELIZOMAI (proeuaggelizomai, 4283), to announce glad tidings beforehand, is used in Gal. 3:8.

Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

You are strongly recommended to add to your library the excellent revised edition of Harper's Bible Dictionary titled, The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition [book review], edited by Paul J. Achtemeier, with the Society of Biblical Literature (NY: Harper Collins, 1996). It is currently the best one-volume Bible dictionary in English, and it is available at Border's Books, Christian Science Reading Rooms,, or

gospel, Gospels, the English translation of the Greek euangelion, which means ‘good news.’ In the nt it refers to the good news preached by Jesus that the Kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15) and the good news of what God has done on behalf of humanity in Jesus (Rom. 1:3-5). The background for the noun is found in the ot where the verbal form ‘to bring good news’ or ‘to announce good news’ appears rather than the noun. So in Isa. 40:9; 41:27; 52:7; and 61:1 the messenger announces the good news of Israel’s redemption from Exile. In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus takes up the words of Isa. 61:1-2 to announce his glad tidings. And in Matt. 11:5 and Luke 7:22 Jesus’ response to the messengers of John, that the poor have the good news preached to them, is a way of affirming his messiahship. In addition to this background the nt also reflects Hellenistic usage. The Roman proconsul Paulus Fabius Maximus, for example, honored Caesar Augustus by reckoning Caesar’s birthday as the beginning of the new year. In doing so, he called Caesar’s birthday ‘good news’ (euangelion) for the whole world.

Although the word ‘gospel’ is commonly associated with the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, it is Paul who uses the noun more than any other writer of the nt. On several occasions he employs it without further qualification (Rom. 10:16; 11:28; 1 Cor. 4:15; 9:14, 18), thereby showing that his audience readily understood its content. At other times he offers a description of the gospel as ‘the gospel of God’ (Rom. 1:1; 15:16; 2 Cor. 11:7), ‘the gospel of Christ’ (Rom. 15:19; 1 Cor. 9:12; 2 Cor. 2:12; 9:13; 10:14; Phil. 1:27; 1 Thess. 3:2), and ‘the gospel of his Son’ (Rom. 1:9). The first phrase usually refers to the origin of the gospel, which is in God, while the last two point to the content of the gospel, which is Jesus Christ. In Rom. 1:1-6 and 1 Cor. 15:1-8 Paul gives his most detailed descriptions of the gospel. It comes from God. It was promised through the prophets. Its content is Jesus, a descendant of David according to the flesh, designated Son of God by the resurrection. Paul bears witness to this resurrection.

Although Paul can speak of ‘my gospel’ (Rom. 2:16; 16:25) and ‘our gospel’ (2 Cor. 4:3) there is no other gospel (Gal. 1:7). There is only one gospel and it was disclosed to Paul when God revealed his Son to him (Gal. 1:16). Paul’s gospel, then, is not a human affair; it has its origins in God (Gal. 1:11). The apostle strives to prevent his audience from turning to false versions of the gospel (2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6). The true gospel demands obedience (Rom. 10:16) and Paul does everything for the sake of it (1 Cor. 9:23), even surrendering his legitimate rights so that the gospel can be preached free of charge (1 Cor. 9:18).

Among the Evangelists only Mark and Matthew employ the noun ‘gospel.’ Mark begins his account, ‘The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’ Here gospel does not describe the literary genre of Mark’s work but the content of his message, i.e., Jesus Christ is the Son of God. In this regard Mark is similar to Paul. For Mark, the gospel is the message Jesus preached, the arrival of the Kingdom of God (1:14-15), and the present proclamation about Jesus. The latter point is evident in Mark 8:35 and 10:29 where Mark equates the gospel with the person of Jesus, and in Mark 13:10 and 14:9 where the gospel is equated with the story of Jesus.

Matthew, unlike Mark, always qualifies the noun ‘gospel.’ Thus he speaks about ‘the gospel of the Kingdom’ (4:23; 9:35; 24:14) by which he means the gospel whose content is the Kingdom of God, preached first by Jesus and now by the church. He also speaks of ‘this gospel’ (26:13) and so emphasizes the message preached by the church. Luke does not employ the noun ‘gospel’ except in Acts 15:7 and 20:24. Instead he uses the verbal form ‘to preach.’ Thus in the Acts of the Apostles preaching the gospel becomes the dominant activity of the church.

In the nt period the noun ‘gospel’ did not refer to a genre of written literature as it does today. Instead it denoted the oral message that encapsulates God’s salvific activity in Jesus Christ on behalf of humankind. It was only in the middle of the second century that the plural form ‘Gospels’ was employed. Thus Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165) writes that the ‘memoirs composed by the apostles’ are called ‘Gospels’ (First Apology 66). Yet even in this period it was recognized that there is only one gospel as can be seen from the titles applied to these works, ‘The Gospel According to Matthew,’ ‘The Gospel According to Mark,’ etc.

The formation of the Gospels encompassed three stages. The first is the life and the teaching of Jesus. During this period Jesus gathered disciples who heard his teaching and witnessed his deeds. The second was that of the oral tradition, the time between the death of Jesus and the first written Gospel, approximately a.d. 33-70. In this period the church assembled collections of Jesus’ words and deeds, e.g., his sayings, parables, miracles, and the passion narrative. The collections were employed for liturgical, catechetical, apologetical, and missionary purposes. In the third stage the Evangelists gathered these diverse collections to form their gospels. The first to do so was probably Mark about the year 70. Fifteen to twenty years later Matthew and Luke, independently of each other, undertook a revision of Mark. In making their revisions they appear to have had access to a collection of Jesus’ sayings unknown to Mark. In addition each had special material such as is found in their infancy narratives. The diagram indicates the probable literary relationships among the first three Gospels. Because Matthew and Luke depend upon Mark as their primary source, there is a striking similarity between the first three Gospels and they are given the name ‘the synoptic Gospels.’

The Gospel of John was composed toward the end of the first century. Although it may show knowledge of the synoptic Gospels, it is strikingly different in style, tone, and theology, with its strong emphasis on a Jesus with much fuller consciousness of his divinity. Set in a three-year rather than a one-year time span as in the synoptic Gospels, the career of Jesus moves regularly between Galilee and Jerusalem. Written in a unique and deceptively simple style, John nevertheless makes many theological points explicit that in the other gospels remain only implicit.

Bibliography Fitzmyer, Joseph A. A Christological Catechism: New Testament Answers. New York: Paulist Press, 1982. Harrington, Daniel J. Interpreting the New Testament: A Practical Guide. Wilmington, DL: Michael Glazier, 1979. Kee, H. C. Understanding the New Testament. 4th ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1983. F.J.M.

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