Gospel

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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

1. The meaning of the term .-‘Gospel,’ a compound of the O.E. gód , ‘good,’ and spel , ‘tidings,’ has been employed from the beginnings of English translation of the NT to render the Greek εὐαγγέλιον. In the classics this term denotes ( a ) the reward for good tidings, and is so used in the Septuagint( 2 Samuel 4:10), ᾧ ἔδει με δοῦναι εὐαγγέλια (pl.[Note: plural.]), ‘the reward I had to give him for his tidings’; but ( b ) in later Greek the word stands for the glad message itself. In the NT, however, εὐαγγέλιον refers not to the written record, as in the modern usage of ‘gospel’ = ‘book,’ but to the message as delivered and proclaimed. The gospel of N., e.g. is the good news as N. announced it, and St. Paul’s gospel is the message brought by the Apostle in his preaching. As long as oral teaching and exhortation could be had from eye-witnesses and intimates of our Lord’s ministry, ‘gospel’ was reserved for this testimony; accordingly, the Apostle John ( 1 John 1:1) writes, ὁ ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, ὃ ἀκηκόαμεν, ὃ ἑωπάκαμεν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν, ὃ ἐθεασάμεθα καὶ αἱ χαῖρες ἡμῶν ἐψηλάφησαν, περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς, ‘that which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with out eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life.’ These are the credentials of his message, and the persuasion of it to the hearts of his hearers. Among the early Christians these memories-ἀπομνημονεύματα-were most prized, and that word rather than εὐαγγέλιον was the primitive term for the gospel (cf. Moffatt, Introd. to Literature of the New Testament (Moffatt). , 1911, p. 44, with foot-note).

But as the eye-witnesses and their immediate successors passed away, believers had to fall back, perforce, upon a written record. The earliest certain use of the word in the modern sense is found in Justin Martyr (circa, about150 a.d.)-‘The apostles in the memoirs written by themselves, which are called “Gospels” ’ ( Apol . i. 66; cf. Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible , Dict. of Christ and the Gospels , and Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , s.v. ).

The passage which rules the use of εὐαγγέλιον in the NT is  Mark 1:14, ἦλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν κηρύσσων τὸ εὐγγέλιον τοῦ θεοῦ (the gen. is both subj. and obj.; all aspects are included), ‘Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel of God.’

The word, probably, came into favour through the use by the Septuagintof the cognate εὐαγγελίζειν and εὐαγγελίζεσθαι in 2 Is. and in the Restoration-Psalms (cf. our Lord’s discourse [ Luke 4:18] in the synagogue of Nazareth concerning the glad tidings of His Mission, based on  Isaiah 61:1). But, while the term (noun and verb) is of fairly frequent occurrence in the Synoptics, it owes its predominance in apostolic Christianity to the Apostle of the Gentiles. ‘It evidently took a strong hold on the imagination of St. Paul in connexion with his own call to missionary labours (εὐαγγέλιον sixty times in Epp. Paul, besides in Epp. and Apoc. only twice; εὐαγγελίζεσθαι twenty tunes in Epp. Paul, besides once mid seven times pass.)’ (Sanday-Headlam, Romans 5 , p. 5f.).

In  Mark 1:1, ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χπιστοῦ, and  Revelation 14:6, καὶ εἶδον ἄλλον ἄγγελον … ἔχοντα εὐαγγέλιον αἰώνιον εὐαγγελίσαι, we see the word in almost the transition stage between a spoken message and a book. Before the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, ‘gospel’ was the glad message of the Kingdom, brought and proclaimed by Himself and those whom He sent out to prepare the way before Him. But in  Acts 20:24 ‘the gospel of the grace of God,’  Romans 1:1-3 ‘the gospel of God regarding His Son,’ and  2 Corinthians 4:4 ‘the gospel of the glory (manifested perfection) of Christ, the second stage is approached.

2. The content of the gospel .-As to the subject-matter of the apostolic gospel, one can scarcely say that the content varied; it was rather that the emphasis was changed. In his synagogue ministry to the Dispersion, St. Paul found the soil in some measure prepared. The παιδαγωγός had brought men so far that certain beliefs might be taken for granted as a foundation laid by the Spirit of Revelation in the OT Scriptures both legal and prophetic. This would rule the content of his gospel message to them. The case was different, however, in purely missionary and pioneer work, not only in rude places such as Lystra, but also among the more cultured, though equally pagan, populations in the great cities of the Empire, both in Asia and in Europe. The pioneer gospel, therefore, would have notes of its own. Then, again, after a district had been evangelized and churches planted, we can see how the emphasis of the message would change, us apostolic men, prophets and teachers, sought to lead the primitive Christian communities up to ‘the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ’ ( Ephesians 4:13; cf.  Hebrews 6:1).

From 1 and 2 Thess. we may gather the content of St. Paul’s evangelistic gospel in his heathen mission. ‘Those simple, childlike Epistles to the Thessalonian Church are a kind of Christian primer’ (A. B. Bruce, St. Paul’s Conception of Christianity , p. 15ff.). From the address on Mars’ Hill ( Acts 17:30-31) we have further indications of the staple of his message to those outside. But, perhaps more succinctly and perfectly than anywhere else, in  1 Corinthians 15:3-8 we have the evangelistic Pauline gospel-‘for I delivered to you, among the most important things (ἐν πρώτοις), that which also I received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he has been raised on the third day according to the scriptures; and that he appeared unto Cephas; then to the twelve: then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the majority survive to this day, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles. And Inst of all, as to the one untimely born, he appeared to me also.’ This summary of the Christian Creed reveals what, to St. Paul, constituted the essential content of the gospel (cf. J. E. McFadyen, The Epistles to the Corinthians [Interpreter’s Com., 1911], p. 205ff.).

To this synopsis of his gospel St. Paul adds ( 1 Corinthians 15:11), ‘Whether then it be I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.’ In all essentials St. Paul stood on the same ground as the Twelve-St. Peter, St. James, and St. Paul were absolutely unanimous. Had it been otherwise, tine can hardly see how he could have won recognition among ‘the pillars’ or been accepted by the Church. His gospel was not a different (ἕτερος) gospel, though his rapidly changing spheres, and the pressing need of the occasion, may have shifted the accent. This he acknowledges when, speaking of the evangelical mission of the Church, he says ( Galatians 2:7), ‘I had been entrusted with the gospel of (for) the uncircumcision, even as Peter with the gospel of (for) the circumcision.’ But it was the same gospel in alt its manifold adaptability. Therein no schism is the NT as to the content of the gospel message. The opinion that there is has been well called a ‘perversity of criticism.’ Thus ( Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , s.v. ) the apostolic gospel may be defined as ‘the good tidings, coming from God, of salvation by His free favour through Christ.’ But as the ‘gospel’ of a church is to be sought not only in the message of its preachers, but also in its condensed creeds and in its hymns, there ought to be added to the above summary at least two splendid fragments that have the true liturgical ring about them:

(1) Christ exalted  :  1 Timothy 3:16 (ὅς, not θεός, is the subject, Revised Version)-

ὅς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί,

ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι,

ὤφθη ἀγγέλοις,

ἐκηρύχθη ἐν ἔθνεσιν,

ἐπιστεύθη ἐη κόσμῳ,

ἀνελήμφθη ἐν δόξῃ.

‘This fragment, in its grand lapidary style, is worthy to be placed by the side of the Apostles ‘Creed’ (Köhler, quoted by J. Strachan, Captivity and Pastoral Epistles [Westminster NT, 1910], p. 218f.).

(2) God glorified  :  1 Timothy 6:15-16 -

ὁ μακἀριος καὶ μόνος δυνάστης,

ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν βασιλευόντων

καὶ κύριος τῶν κυριευόντων,

ὁ μόνος ἔχων ἀθανασίαν,

φῶς οἰκῶν ἀπρόσιτον,

ὅν εἶδεν οὐδεὶς ἀνθρώπων

οὐδὲ ἰδεῖν δύναται.

ᾦ τιμὴ καὶ κρἀτος αἰώνιον.

3. The relation of the gospel to the Law .-Acts 13 records the opening of St. Paul’s official missionary Labours, and there ( Acts 13:38-39) we have the first indication of the Pauline attitude to the Law. In his address in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch, he generalizes the incident of Cornelius; ‘Be it known unto you therefore, brethren, that through this man (Jesus) is proclaimed unto yon remission of sins; and by him every one that believeth is justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.’

But Romans 7, with its logical conclusion in ch. 8, is the crucial passage for the understanding of the relations of Law and gospel in the life of St. Paul, and in that of the NT Church generally. It is the Apostle’s account of the struggle, ‘often baffled, sore battled,’ that filled the years before his conversion. He also was a rich young ruler troubled with the haunting question, ‘What shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ For years he had struggled to put down sin in his own heart, to be righteous in the sight of God, passionately longing to have the assurance of the forgiveness of sins, that in peace he might will his will and work his work. In this respect he is like his spiritual kinsmen, Luther and Bunyan. In some respects, St. Paul sharpened the antithesis between Law and grace to a point that was extreme, in that it did not take account of the prophetic element in the Old Testament which was not legal. Jeremiah , 2 Isaiah, and Hosea may be instanced.

But in his day, as a general rule, it was the legal aspect of the OT that held the thought of the Jewish people. Judaism knew but one answer to such questionings as St. Paul’s-‘Keep the law’; and if a man replied, ‘I cannot,’ the answer came back remorselessly: ‘Nevertheless, keep it.’ ‘Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all’ ( James 2:10,  Galatians 3:10).

As the Apostle looked back on the long, weary way ever which he had come, he found that he had travelled into ‘a dark and dreadful consciousness of sin and disaster’ (Rainy in The Evangelical Succession , p. 20). And this refers to the observance not of one part of the Law but of the whole; what appealed to the conscience of men everywhere, ceremonial Judaism, and the tradition of the elders-all that νόμος means is included.

‘All his experience, at whatever date, of the struggle of the natural man with temptation is here [ch. 7] gathered together and concentrated in a single portraiture. [But] we shall probably not be wrong in referring the main features of it especially to the period before his Conversion’ (Sanday-Headlam, op. cit. p. 186). But of course, as St. Paul presents it to the churches, it is his own experience universalized. There is no possibility of winning a standing before God by the Law-

‘For merit lives from man to man,

And not from man, O Lord, to Thee.’

He had discovered also that there was no life to be hoped for from the Law. Such had never been its intention. The ‘parenthesis’ of the Law had for its purpose to create the full knowledge of sin (διὰ νόμον ἐπίγνωσις ἁμαρτίας), to produce in the conscience the conviction of it.

Moreover-such is the weakness of human nature-the Law tended to stir sin into dreadful activity, for every commandment seemed tit bring up a new crop of sins into his life.

But to the Law St. Paul held on as long as possible; his sudden conversion means as much. The Law was the one outlet to the hopes of Judaism; while to the patriotism of St. Paul Christianity seemed anti-national. Therefore he hung on till he could hold no longer-‘O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?’ ( Romans 7:24). ‘Any true happiness, therefore, any true relief, must be sought elsewhere. And it was this happiness and relief which St. Paul sought and found in Christ. The last verse of Romans 7 marks the point at which the great harden which lay upon the conscience rolls away; and the next chapter begins with an uplifting of the heart in recovered peace and serenity; “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” ’ (Sanday-Headlam, op. cit. p. 189). He had found salvation by grace, redemption in Christ, and righteousness by faith and union with Him; ‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from ‘the law of sin and of death’ ( Romans 8:2). The very essence of St. Paul’s gospel is to be found in his conception of Christ’s relation to the condemning Law. There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, because He stood condemned in their place, and took their condemnation upon Himself; therefore St. Paul is bold to say, ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us’ ( Galatians 3:13).

It is characteristic of his rebound and gladness of spirit that he, by pre-eminence in the NT, called his message the good news (εὐαγγέλλιον, and the discovery sent him out everywhere (‘Woe is me if I preach not the gospel’) to the multitudes of burdened souls, who wore held, as he had once been held, in this strange captivity. Through all his letters, the contrast between Law and gospel as mutually exclusive is developed in the antitheses, law and faith, works and grace, wages and free gift-‘Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace’ ( Galatians 5:4). In the Third, the Pauline, Gospel, we have our Lord’s story of the two debtors, both of whom, when they had nothing to pay, were frankly forgiven. In the days before his conversion, St. Paul had been painfully trying to pay that debt. Brought to the knowledge that he had nothing wherewith to pay, he made the great discovery that Christ had paid the debt and set him free. And, as he who has been forgiven much will love much, therefore evangelical love burned in St. Paul’s heart, as perhaps never in the heart of man besides, to the ‘Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.’

Though the idea of the Law in the Epistle to the Hebrews is so different that it is impossible for Gal. and Heb to have come from the same pen, yet the contrast between the Law and the gospel is ‘without doubt identical with that of St. Paul, although the writer of Hebrews possibly reached that position by a different road’ (A. B. Davidson, Hebrews [Hand books for Bible Classes], p. 19). Both writers hold that Christ is the end of the Law to every one that believeth, and through Him is the Atonement made once for all. but inasmuch as the question between Jews and Gentiles had in the days of Hebrews passed beyond the stage of keen controversy, and a free gospel was preached everywhere, the writer did not feel it needful to develop the contrasts between Law and gospel in the Pauline manner. Yet ‘the ceremonial observances are in themselves worthless ( Hebrews 7:18;  Hebrews 10:1-4); they were meant to be nothing more than temporary ( Hebrews 9:8-10;  Hebrews 8:13); for God Himself in OT Scripture has abrogated them ( Hebrews 7:18;  Hebrews 10:9); and the believing Hebrews are exhorted to sever all connection with their countrymen still practising them ( Hebrews 13:13)’ (A. B. Davidson, op. cit. p. 19). When the Sun has risen, all other lights pale and fade. The substance has come, the shadow disappears.

It has already been pointed out that there is no sufficient reason for assuming a schism re Law and Faith in the apostolic writings. St. Paul stood on substantially the same ground as the Twelve; his recognition by them ( Galatians 2:2-10), and much more his acceptance by the Church, imply as much. Nor is there on a fair and careful interpretation any antagonism between the Epistle to the Romans and the Epistle of James. The question turns on the meaning of πίστις. St. James is not denouncing the Pauline πίστις, but the caricature of it in a narrow Judaism, which has reduced this noble faculty of the soul to the mere intellectual acceptance of a dogma- a fides informis , ethically fruitless-a faith without works ( James 2:26). St. Paul, on the other hand, thinks of a fides formata , ‘faith which worketh by love’ ( Galatians 5:6). Words mean different things to different men. To St. Paul ‘works’ moan ἔργα νόμου, while to St. James they correspond to what St. Paul calls ‘the fruits of the Spirit. Thus, ‘so far as the Christian praxis of religion is concerned, James and Paul are a tone, but each lays the emphasis on different syllables ‘(Moffatt, Introd. to Literature of the New Testament (Moffatt). , p. 465). It is nothing strange that both go to the story of Abraham ( Genesis 15:6) for an apposite example, for it has been pointed out (Lightfoot, Gal .5, 1876, p. 157) that this passage was a stock subject of discussion in the Jewish schools and in Philo. St. Paul, quoting Genesis, affirms that the initial act for which Abraham was accepted in the sight of God was his faith; and St. James, thinking more of  Genesis 22:12 than of  Genesis 15:6, says that his faith was made clear, ‘seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.’ ‘Faith alone justifies, though the faith which justifies does not remain alone.’ Thus we read ( Titus 3:8), ‘I will that thou affirm confidently to the end that they which have believed God may be careful to maintain good works’ (cf. the Scots Paraphrase [56], ‘Thus faith approves itself sincere, by active virtue crowned’). But white all real opposition between the apostles (whatever may be the temporal relation between Romans and James) may be disallowed, it need not be denied that the formal differences which appear in the Epistles may well have risen from the extremities to which the controversy was pushed in the different schools of thought in the Church ( paulinior ipso Paulo ). The Apostle was not oblivious of misinterpretation ( Romans 6:1;  Romans 6:15), and the school of St. James doubtless had those who carried their master’s doctrine to extreme lengths. But in the balance of Holy Scripture, the truths of which St. James and St. Paul are protagonists are not contradictories, but safe and necessary supplementaries in the body of Christian doctrine. (For the relation between the doctrines of St. Paul and St. James re the Law and Faith, reference may be made to Romans 5 [ International Critical Commentary ], p. 102ff.; James [Cambridge Bible, 1878], p. 76ff.; The General Epistles [Century Bible, 1901], p. 163ff.; Moffatt, Introd. to Literature of the New Testament (Moffatt). , p. 465.)

Literature.-Sanday-Headlam, Roman 5 ( International Critical Commentary , 1902), pp. 184-189); J. Denney, Studies in Theology , 1894, p. 100ff., ‘Romans’ in Expositor’s Greek Testament , 1900, p. 632ff., also art[Note: rt article.]‘Law’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols)  ; R. Rainy in The Evangelical Succession (Lects. in St. George’s Free Church, Edinburgh), 1882, p. 20ff.; A. B. Bruce, The Kingdom of God 4, 1891, pp. 63-84, St. Paul’s Conception of Christianity , 1894, p. 293ff.; Expository Times vii. [1895-96] 297f., xii. [1900-01] 482b, xxi. [1909-10] 497f. For the Law in Hebrews, see A. S. Peake, Hebrews (Century Bible, 1902). p. 30ff.

W. M. Grant.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [2]

"Glad tidings" or "good news, " from Anglo-Saxon godspell .

The Old Testament . Good news is proclaimed widely (  1 Samuel 31:9;  Psalm 96:2-3;  Isaiah 40:9;  52:7 ), spread rapidly (  2 Samuel 18:19-31;  2 Kings 7:9;  Psalm 68:11 ), and declared and received joyfully (  2 Samuel 1:20;  Psalm 96:11-12;  Isaiah 52:7-9;  Jeremiah 20:15 ).

Where the message is gospel for Israelites and based on fact, the news is in every case but one ( Jeremiah 20:15 ) related to God the Savior.  Psalm 40:9-10 celebrates his saving help. Kings and armies are scattered by the Almighty (  Psalm 68:11,14 ). It is he who delivers David from his enemies ( 2 Samuel 18:19-31 ). A direct act of God puts the Syrians to flight ( 2 Kings 7:1-9 ); he breaks the Assyrian yoke ( Nahum 1:13,15 ). Having conquered Babylon by the hand of Cyrus ( Isaiah 41:25,27 ), the mighty God returns to Zion (40:9-10). The peace and salvation announced in  Isaiah 52:7 are won by his sovereign power ("Your God reigns!"). "The year of the Lord's favor" brings glad tidings to the afflicted (61:1-2).

The explanation for God's saving action lies nowhere but in God himself. In whatever measure Israel has paid for her past sins ( Isaiah 40:2 ), she remains a sinful people (42:25; 46:12-13). She is saved by divine grace alone (55:1-7). There being no righteousness to reward, Yahweh Acts to create righteousness in Israel (45:8; 61:3,10-11). The penalty for sin is exacted not from Israel but from the Servant appointed to stand in her place (53:4-12). Through the Servant's work, many will be justified (53:11); those who possess no righteousness (43:25-28) will be acquitted.

The joy that attends the gospel finds ultimate expression in the praise of God. "Praise be to the Lord your God!" exclaims Ahimaaz in reporting victory to David ( 2 Samuel 18:28 ). The glad tidings of  Psalm 68:11-14 are recollected during a festal procession celebrating God's enthronement (cf.   Psalm 40:9-10 ). The watchmen of  Isaiah 52:7-8 shout for joy over Yahweh's return to Zion.   Psalm 96:1-3 summons the whole earth to tell of Yahweh's salvation, to "bless his name" and "declare his glory."

With the return of the exiles from Babylon, the salvation announced in Isaiah is but partly realized. The foreign nations, far from becoming her fellow worshipers, remain Israel's oppressors. Israel's own unrighteousness was to persist; the Servant appointed to bear her iniquities has not yet appeared. As Isaiah makes clear, the full realization of salvation awaits the dawn of a new age—an age created by the saving God. At the close of the Old Testament, the inauguration of this new age is still awaited.

The New Testament: Stage One . Except for  Galatians 3:8 and   Hebrews 4:2,6 , the New Testament restricts gospel terminology to proclamations made during the time of fulfillment, when the salvation promised in the Old Testament is actually accomplished . According to  Mark 1:1-4 the gospel "begins" not in the Old Testament but with John the Baptist, in whom Old Testament prophecy is fulfilled. The promised birth of John, Messiah's forerunner, is good news (  Luke 1:19 ). John's own preaching is gospel, too ( Luke 3:18 ): it warns sinners of impending doom and urges them to repent before the axe falls (3:7-9); it assures the repentant of forgiveness (3:3) and membership in Messiah's community (3:17). Messiah's own birth is announced as "good news of great joy" (2:10-11). According to  Romans 1:1-5 the gospel promised in the Old Testament is actually given when Jesus comes (see also   Acts 13:32-33 ).

Jesus' gospel declares: "The time has come. The kingdom of God is near" ( Mark 1:14-15 ). God reigns eternally over all that he has made. Yet his will is not done on earth as it is in heaven; wrong, not right, prevails. But these conditions are not final. With the coming of the kingdom, God's rule will be complete; wrong will be judged and right established. That kingdom is now being inaugurated: "The time has come" (  Mark 1:15 a) for Old Testament promises to be fulfilled. The consummation of the kingdom is no longer a distant prospect; the full realization of God's rule is "near" ( Mark 1:15 b).

In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus reads from  Isaiah 61 : "the Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" ( Luke 4:18-19 ). the prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus' own ministry (4:21). He has come to free the physically infirm, such as the blind (4:18) and the leprous (4:27; cf. 7:21; 9:6). He helps the materially poor, like the widow in Elijah's day (4:25-26; cf. 6:20-25,30-38). Yet the spiritually poor are primarily in viewpeople broken and grieved by misery and poverty, oppression and injustice, suffering and death, national apostasy and personal sin, who in their extremity cry out to God to bring forth justice, bestow his mercy, and establish his kingdom ( Matthew 5:3-10 ). Jesus has come to usher in the kingdom, to rescue the lost, to liberate the enslaved, to cure the afflicted, and to forgive the guilty ( Mark 2:5,10 ,  17;  10:45;  Luke 7:48-49;  19:10 ).

The coming of the kingdom is not the effect or the reward of human effort, but God's answer to the human predicamentthe gift of his favor ( Luke 12:32 ). The explanation for the salvation of the poor lies nowhere but in the gracious God. As the prodigal son recognizes, he is not worthy to be called his father's son; nothing he has done, not even his repentance, accounts for the father's love ( Luke 15:11-32 ). In the parable of  Matthew 20:1-16 , it is owing to the goodness of the employer that the last workers hired receive a full day's wages. The first debtor in  Matthew 18:23-35 has earned nothing but the right to be sold into slavery; instead the king cancels his enormous debt. The publican with nothing to offer God but a confession of sin and a plea for mercy is justified (  Luke 18:13-14 ). The same holds true for the more virtuous among the poor, such as those described in  Matthew 5:7-10 . Their virtue is real, not imagined. Yet in keeping God's commands, they do not put him in their debt; they are simply doing their duty ( Luke 17:7-10 ). Even the most merciful need divine mercy ( Matthew 5:7 ); for even those most zealous to obey God's law are unable to fulfill all its requirements ( Matthew 11:28-30 ). Grace depends for its exercise upon the inability of its objects ( Luke 14:12-14 ).

As the Israelites are a sinful people ( Matthew 1:21;  Luke 1:77 ), Jesus proclaims his gospel to the whole nation ( Matthew 4:23;  9:35;  15:24 ). From the most respectable to the least, all are summoned to submit to God's rule, to come to the banquet he has spread ( Luke 14:16-24 ). Salvation must be received to be experienced ( Mark 10:15 ). While it is a gift that costs nothing, it is also a priceless treasure for which a wise person will sacrifice all else ( Matthew 13:44-46 ). "Repent and believe the good news!" commands Jesus ( Mark 1:15 ). The self-righteous and the self-sufficient must be jolted out of their false security and recognize their need of God ( Luke 6:24-26 ). An announcement of liberation ( Luke 4:18-19 ) is good news only to people who are enslaved and know they are. Even the destitute and the afflicted must learn that it is being personally related to God as subject to sovereign and as child to father, which makes one "blessed" ( Matthew 5:3-10 ). Even those who are already "poor in spirit" in the sense defined above, are not really "blessed" until they acknowledge the truth of Jesus' claims ( Matthew 11:6 ) and commit themselves to a life of obedience on his terms ( Matthew 7:21-27 ).

Throughout Jesus' ministry, the theme of his gospel remains the dawning kingdom of God ( Matthew 4:23;  24:14;  Luke 4:43;  16:16 ), a message preached almost exclusively to Jews ( Matthew 10:5-6;  15:24 ). Yet Jesus provides glimpses into what the gospel is to become. He speaks of persons who make sacrifices "for me and for the gospel" ( Mark 8:35;  10:29 ). Jesus and the gospel are here associated in the closest way. We are moving toward the time when the Proclaimer of the gospel will become the Proclaimed.  Mark 13:10 and   Matthew 24:14 foretell the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom to the Gentiles.   Mark 14:8-9 indicates that Jesus and his death will be prominent themes in the worldwide gospel. Here we have an indication of the cruciality of Jesus' death both for the provision of salvation announced in his gospel and for the launching of the mission to the Gentiles.

The New Testament: Stage Two: For the gospel declared after Jesus' resurrection, our main sources are Acts and the letters of Paul.

God authors the gospel and authorizes its proclamation ( Acts 15:7;  16:10;  Romans 1:1-5;  Galatians 1:11-16;  2:7-9;  1 Thessalonians 2:2-9 ). God himself is an Evangelist, personally calling persons to salvation through his human agents ( Acts 10:36; 2Col 4:4-6;  Galatians 1:6;  2 Thessalonians 2:13-14;  Revelation 10:7 ). Paul's gospel is both a witness to an expression of God's grace ( Acts 20:24;  Colossians 1:5-6 ), power ( Romans 1:16; 1Col 1:17-25), and glory (2Col 4:4-6;  1 Timothy 1:11 ). To accept the gospel is to turn to God ( Acts 14:15;  1 Thessalonians 1:5-9 ). To disobey the gospel is to be deprived of the knowledge of God ( 2 Thessalonians 1:8 ). To trade the true gospel for a false one is to turn away from God ( Galatians 1:6 ).

Risen from the dead, Christ again evangelizes ( Ephesians 2:16-17 ) through his representatives ( Romans 15:16-18; 1Col 1:17; 9:12-18;  2 Timothy 1:9-11 ). Moreover, Christ has become the gospel's major theme. This is repeatedly affirmed in Acts and in Paul's writings. Mark describes his whole book as "the gospel about Jesus Christ" (1:1).  Galatians 2:7-9 speaks not of two gospels but of two mission fields; Paul (apostle to the uncircumcised) and Peter (apostle to the circumcised) are both entrusted with the "gospel of Christ" (  Galatians 1:7 ), the message ordained for the salvation of Jews and Gentiles alike ( Romans 1:16 ). The "different gospel" of Galatians 1:6-9, 2 Corinthians 11:4 is not another gospel about Jesus, but a message about "another Jesus"not the real Jesus, but one who exists only in the minds and the message of its advocates. On the other hand, to preach the true Christ is to preach the true gospel, however questionable one's motives (  Philippians 1:15-18 ); to respond rightly to the gospel is to turn to Christ ( Acts 11:20-21;  Romans 10:8-17;  Galatians 2:14-16 ).

The gospel bears witness to every aspect of Christ's saving work, from his birth and public ministry to his second coming and the last judgment. But Christ's death and resurrection, the crucial saving events, are the gospel's most prominent themes. Mark's whole Gospel prepares for Passion Week. In Paul's gospel Jesus' death and resurrection are central ( 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ), with the cross at the very center (1Col 1:17-2:5;  Romans 3:21-26; 2Col 5:14-21). Acts proclaims Jesus' death (8:35; 20:24,28) and preeminently his resurrection, the event by which he conquered death and was exalted as Lord and coming Judge (10:36-43; 13:32-33; 17:31). According to 1Peter the bearers of the gospel focused, as had the Old Testament prophets, upon "the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow" (1:11-12).

Paul declares ( Romans 1:16; 1Col 1:17-18) the gospel to be "the power of God"not merely a witness to, but an expression of his power. The gospel is no bare word but is laden with the power of the Holy Spirit (1Col 2:1-5;  1 Thessalonians 1:5-6 ). Thus it cannot be fettered ( 2 Timothy 2:8-9 ). The gospel effects the salvation it announces and imparts the life it promises.

The gospel offers salvation "through the grace of our Lord Jesus" ( Acts 15:11 ). Paul testifies "to the gospel of God's grace" ( Acts 20:24 ). The gospel is a witness to God's grace. In offering his Son as a sacrifice for sins (  Romans 3:25 a), God demonstrates his righteousness (3:25b, 26). In Jesus' death sins formerly "passed over" (3:25c) become the object of divine wrath (1:18). Yet in the place where God deals justly with sins, he shows grace to sinners. For the judgment is focused not upon the sinners themselves but upon the One who stands in their place (4:25; 5:6-11;  2 Corinthians 5:21;  Galatians 3:13 ). Sinners are therefore freely pardoned ( Romans 3:24 ). The gospel is a channel of God's grace. "A righteousness from God is revealed" in the gospel (  Romans 1:17 )not merely expounded but unleashed, so that the gospel becomes "the power of God for salvation" (1:16). God activates his righteousness by bestowing it freely upon sinners (5:17). They are acquitted, justified, "declared righteous, " by God the Judge by virtue of their union with Christ, who is himself their righteousness (1Col 1:30; 2Col 5:21;  Philippians 3:9 ).

The gospel calls for a threefold response. (1) Believing . The gospel is "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" ( Romans 1:16 ). Faith abandons all reliance on "works of law" for justification ( Romans 3:28 ) and trusts in God's grace imparted in Christ ( Romans 3:22,26;  Galatians 2:16,20 ). One must believe the gospel for here God's salvation is mediated. (2) Growing . The gospel is both a message to be received and a place in which to stand ( 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 ); it both gives and sustains life. The Spirit imparts wisdom by taking persons ever more deeply into the gospel of the cross (1Col 1:18-2:16). Paul is eager to declare the gospel to the Christians in Rome ( Romans 1:15 ), by both his letter and his visit. (3) Hoping . "The hope held out in the gospel" ( Colossians 1:23 ) includes Christ's return and the heavenly glory ( Colossians 1:5;  2 Thessalonians 2:14-16 ), as well as the final judgment ( Romans 2:16 ). For those who embrace the gospel the judgment holds no terrors, because the Judge has rescued them from the wrath to come ( Romans 8:1;  1 Thessalonians 1:10 ); the last judgment marks their final vindication (1Col 4:5;  Galatians 5:5 ). Those who died after believing the gospel ( 1 Peter 4:6 ) have not suffered the fate of the lawless; their response to the gospel assures them of approval by the coming Lord (4:5-6; 5:4) and of a share in the imperishable inheritance of heaven (1:4).

J. Knox Chamblin

See also Death Of Christ; Faith; Grace; Jesus Christ; Kerygma  ; Salvation

Bibliography . W. Barclay, New Testament Words, pp. 101-6; U. Becker, NIDNTT, 2:107-15; K. Chamblin, Gospel according to Paul  ; G. Friedrich, TDNT, 2:707-37; P. Stuhlmacher, ed., The Gospel and the Gospels .

Holman Bible Dictionary [3]

Development in the Old Testament Bisar is the Hebrew verb which means “to proclaim good news.” Unlike the English language, Hebrew is able to convey the subject of the proclamation in the verb's root; no direct object was needed with the verb bisar to make clear that the subject of an announcement was “good news.” Originally, the word was used to describe the report of victory in battle (  2 Samuel 4:10 ). Because the Israelites believed God was actively involved in their lives (including battles and wars) bisar came to have a religious connotation. To proclaim the good news of Israel's success in battle was to proclaim God's triumph over God's enemies. Believing credit for the victory belonged to God, the Israelites' proclamation of the good news of victory was, in fact, proclamation about God.

The transition from the use of bisar in a military setting to its use in a personal context is not difficult to envision. If Israel proclaimed good news when God delivered the nation from its enemies, individuals ought also to proclaim good news when God delivered them from personal distress (  Psalm 40:10 ). The nation's victores in war and a person's individual salvation both called for the announcement of what God had done. The Book of Isaiah marks the full religious development of the term within the Old Testament. By this time the word is most often used to describe the anticipated deliverance and salvation which would come from the hand of God when the long-awaited Messiah appeared to deliver Israel ( Isaiah 52:7 ). The military-political and personal connotations of the word were fully united in the hope of a Deliverer who would both triumph over the earthly enemies of God's people and usher in a new age of salvation. The arrival of this Messiah would be good news.

In the Old Testament, the verbal form of bisar dominates in usage. A noun derived from the verb does appear on occasion, but the vast majority of references are to the verb itself. The good news of God's saving work and the proclamation of that news cannot be separated.

Development in the New Testament From approximately 300 B.C. until after the time of Christ, Greek was the dominant language of the biblical world. The Greek language crossed geographic and cultural barriers to provide a common tongue for government and commerce. During this same time period thousands of Jews emigrated from Palestine throughout Asia Minor. Consequently, many devout Greek-speaking Jews lived in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, many Jews who lived outside Palestine spoke Greek better than they spoke Hebrew. These people eventually translated their Scriptures and the important expressions of their faith into Greek.

As translators performed their work on the Hebrew Bible, the Greek word most commonly used for bisar was euangelizesthai. In its most ancient usage, this Greek verb had many similarities with bisar. Like the Hebrew verb, euangelizesthai was a word used to announce victory in battle. Another similarity could be found in that the Greek verb originally needed no direct object to convey the subject of the proclamation. However, by the time the New Testament was written the usage of euangelizesthai had changed slightly. In later usage the word simply meant “to proclaim,” and some object had to be used with the verb to explain the subject of the proclamation.

This small shift in meaning explains why during the Christian era a noun derived from the Greek verb became much more common. Christians increasingly used euanggelion (the noun derived from euangelizesthai) as a specific term to describe the good news of Jesus. Euanggelion was indeed the content of their preaching. However, because the Greek language now allowed the content of their proclamation to be separated from the idea of proclamation itself, writers of the New Testament could also say the good news was confessed, taught, spoken, told, announced, and witnessed. Development in English Translations bEarliest English editions of the Bible used the Anglo-Saxon word “godspell” to translate the noun euaggelion. Godspell meant “the story about a god” and was used because the story about Jesus was good news. As English developed, the word was shortened to “gospel,” and the Anglo-Saxon meaning was lost. Because euaggelion was used specifically to refer to good news of Jesus, some translators have used other words to translate bisar in the Old Testament, even though the meaning of the two words are roughly the same. This distinction has been drawn in order to differentiate between the good news promised by the prophets and the good news which Jesus actually brings. Translators who make such a distinction often use “glad tidings” or an equivalent for the Hebrew.

Usage in the New Testament In the New Testament “gospel” has two shades of meaning: it is both the actual message on the lips of Jesus about the reign of God ( Mark 1:14 ), and it is the story told about Jesus after His death and resurrection ( Galatians 1:11-12 ). In each case “gospel” refers to the work which God alone initiates and completes. Inasmuch as God has chosen to bring about the world's reconciliation in this one particular way, there is only one gospel ( Hebrews 1:1-2 ). Furthermore, since God is the One working through the saving activity of Jesus, God is also the Author of the gospel ( 1 Thessalonians 2:13 ). The gospel is God's message to humankind ( Romans 15:16 ). Only God calls and commissions the messengers of this good news, and, in addition, only God gives the messengers the story they are to make known ( Romans 10:14-15;  1 John 1:5 ).

Therefore, the proclamation of the good news is the continuation of the work which God began in Jesus Christ. God's messengers are not merely telling about the history of salvation when they proclaim the good news; rather, they are an integral part of the work which continues through their efforts. The living Lord, Jesus Christ Himself, confronts listeners through the words of the messengers. To alter the message by adding extra requirements or by omitting crucial details is to pervert the gospel into a false message which ceases to have saving power ( 2 Corinthians 11:3-4;  Galatians 1:6-7 ).

The Message of the Gospel The most basic summary of Jesus' preaching appears in  Mark 1:15 . “The time is fulfilled,” He said. “The kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Mark offers no explanation what the good news is or what information it contains. Those readers who live several centuries after the writing of the New Testament must glean the message from careful study of all its books.

The need for good news assumes a bad situation. The bad situation in which humans find themselves and the reason they need good news is that sin has entered each of their lives ( John 8:7;  Romans 3:23 ). Sin is a power that controls them and shapes their destinies ( Romans 3:9;  Romans 6:22 ). Sin's power must not be underestimated. In fact, humans are helpless by themselves to overcome its grip on their lives ( Romans 7:21-24 ).

Because humans cannot overcome the power of sin by themselves, God has intervened on their behalf through Jesus. Jesus has come to seek out all persons so they may respond to God's grace ( Luke 15:1-10;  Luke 19:10 ). God's grace, which Jesus bears within Himself ( John 1:14 ), overcomes sin's power and offers forgiveness for individual sins ( Mark 2:5;  Romans 6:14 ). See  Matthew 19:20-22;  John 1:12 ). Because Jesus bears God's grace in Himself, grace is accepted only by receiving him ( John 14:9-12 ). The marks of having accepted Jesus are repentance ( Luke 13:3 ) and a changed life ( Matthew 3:8;  1 John 1:5-7 ).

The fact that forgiveness, freedom from sin, and a new life are possible is good news. Because all this is possible only through Jesus Christ, His message and His story are called the “gospel.”

Development of Written Gospels Within the New Testament, the word euanggelion always refers to oral communication, never to a document or piece of literature. Not until the beginning of the second century and the writings of the “church fathers” do we find references to “gospels” in the plural, indicating written documents. How did this transition from a spoken message to written books take place?

Literacy was uncommon in the ancient world. Books and writing equipment were expensive and the education needed to use them was usually reserved for the rich alone. Consequently, many societies preserved and transmitted their national stories, traditions, and faith by word of mouth. These societies stressed the importance of telling and remembering their traditions from one generation to another. Such a system may seem fragile and unreliable by modern standards, but ancient societies trusted the methods and forms they developed to sustain the process.

In times of crisis (such as an invasion by a foreign nation), however, certain learned individuals would try to guarantee the preservation of their society's oral traditions by writing them down. They often wrote out of the fear of what would happen if their nation was defeated or destroyed and no one was left to transmit orally the living traditions to the next generation. The gospels of the New Testament developed along a pattern similar to other ancient writings. For many years the stories and teachings of Jesus were communicated primarily by word of mouth. In addition to the fact of limited literacy, members of the early church believed Jesus would return soon, so they felt no urgency to write down His teachings for the future. Then, about thirty years after Jesus' ascension, three interrelated crises began to impinge upon the church. As a result of these crises, individuals responded to the leadership of God's Spirit to write down the teachings, stories, and message of Jesus into what we call the Gospels.

The first of these crises was persecution. The Emperor Nero initiated the first official persecution so he could use Christians as scapegoats for his own insane actions. After setting fire to the city of Rome in A.D. 64 as a way to clear a portion of the city for a construction project, Nero arrested Christians and accused them of committing the crime. Using torture, Roman officials extracted a “confession” from one Christian. On the basis of this supposed admission of guilt, Nero began a systematic persecution of Christians which included arrest, imprisonment, torture, and execution. The persecution begun by Nero continued in varying degrees of intensity during the reign of other emperors throughout the New Testament period. From a historical perspective, persecution may have strengthened the spirit of the early church, but that first generation of Christians felt their very existence was threatened. The second crisis involved the passing away of the generation of people who had actually seen Jesus in the flesh, heard His teachings, and witnessed His miracles. Some died in the persecutions and others simply aged enough to pass away from natural causes. The early church placed a high value on the experience of actually having seen and heard Jesus ( Luke 1:2;  1 John 1:1 ). Therefore, the death of members of the original generation of Christians was viewed as a potential break in their linkage to the historical roots of their faith.

The third crises was the perceived delay in Christ's return to earth. Preaching recorded in the New Testament has a distinct sense of urgency about it. The apostles believed that Jesus would be returning any day and that it was imperative for them to give as many people as possible the opportunity to respond to Him. Their constant emphasis was to communicate the gospel today, not to preserve it for the future. As a longer and longer period of time passed after Jesus' ascension, the church became more and more concerned about preserving the message.

The Purposes of the Evangelists From approximately A.D. 60 until A.D. 90, four individuals responded to the inspiration of God by writing down the message of, and about, Jesus. As they did, these individuals surely held several goals in common. Responding to the crises around them, they wanted to preserve the gospel message in an accurate form for believers who would follow in future generations. In this sense the authors were each trying to produce a book for the Christian community. They wrote down the good news of Jesus to strengthen, to educate, and to encourage those who already accepted its message.

It is also clear that they intended to use a written form of the gospel as an additional tool for evangelism ( John 20:30-31 ). The evangelists envisioned the written gospel as a vehicle to spread faith in Jesus Christ. In this sense, each evangelist was trying to produce a missionary book. Understanding the missionary character of the four Gospels is an important factor in their study. The Gospel writers' primary interest was not to produce great works of literature, nor was their intention to write a biography in the modern sense of the word. Their principal objective was to convert individuals to faith in Christ. Thus, they wrote primarily to convince, not to record facts. The primary intention of the evangelists determined the shape and content of the written Gospels. One may wish the Gospel writers had included additional information about Jesus' home life, His adolescence, or some other area of interest; but the Gospel writers were not led to believe that kind of data was crucial for faith. The evangelists structured their works to give the message maximum impact on the readers. They included material they felt was essential for the reader to know to be able to make a decision about Jesus' identity. All other concerns regarding form and content of the Gospels was secondary to the missionary objective.

While the teaching of the New Testament affirms that there is only one, true gospel, the books contained therein stand as testimony to the fact that the gospel is influenced by each personality which proclaims it. The church does not possess one account of the message of and work of Jesus which stands alone as the official record of His activity. Rather, the early church recognized the inspiration of four different accounts of the gospel. Each one was written from a slightly different perspective; each one had a different audience in mind; each one was designed to highlight the elements of the gospel which the author felt most important. The four Gospels witness both the divine inspiration of God and the individual, human personalities of their authors.

Out of several gospels and other accounts of the life of Jesus ( Luke 1:1-2 ), God led the early church to choose four which He had inspired. See Matthew; Mark; Luke; John .

The Gospel of Mark Most scholars see Mark as the first written Gospel, though many scholars are providing reasons to claim Matthew was first. The simple structure, terse language, and sometimes poor grammar give the impression that this book was composed in a hurry. From references by church leaders in the second century, we learnfjcr pbthat the shortest Gospel was written near the year A.D. 65 by a man named Mark (possibly John Mark) who was a follower of the Apostle Peter. Mark recorded the life and message of Jesus as he heard it from the mouth of Peter during the apostle's teaching and preaching.

The best evidence indicates Mark wrote the Gospel for Christians in Rome faced with the first great persecution and the loss of leaders such as Peter. Mark shows a definite interest in the power of Jesus' words and actions—a power so great it destroys the forces of sin and evil. The exorcisms and other miracles were evidence to Roman Christians being victimized by evil that Jesus could deliver them just as He delivered the demoniac or healed the blind man at Bethsaida ( Mark 5:1-20;  Mark 8:22-26 ).

The Gospel of Matthew Matthew is the most Jewish of the Gospels. It constantly presents Jesus as the fullfillment of Hebrew prophecy and in images which show Him similar to, but greater than, Old Testament personalities. For instance, the purpose of the nativity story in Matthew is to present Jesus as the royal Messiah from the lineage of David. The Sermon on the Mount portrays Jesus as a new Moses who teaches God's law from the mountain.

Written ten to twenty years after Mark, Matthew takes the general framework of the first written Gospel and adds to it extensive examples of Jesus' parables and other teachings. While Mark emphasized the power and activity of Jesus, Matthew underscored His teaching.

The Gospel of Luke Produced about the same time as Matthew, Luke is generally accepted as the only Gospel written by a Gentile and by a person who was not directly related to Jesus or to one of His original disciples. As one born outside the boundaries of Judaism, Luke had a profound interest in interpreting Jesus as the Savior of all humanity. Matthew traced Jesus' lineage to Abraham to prove His pure Jewish heritage. Luke, on the other hand, traced His lineage all the way back to Adam to accentuate His common bond with all the human race. Luke mentions shepherds as the witnesses of the Messiah's birth, because the filth associated with their occupation made them prime examples of society's outcasts. The fact they were invited to the manger of Bethlehem indicates Jesus' openness to everyone.

The Gospel of John John was the last Gospel written. It is undoubtedly the most reflective and the most theological of the four. Although scholars cannot agree whether John's primary audience was Jewish or Gentile, they do agree that a major emphasis of this Gospel was to combat the heresy of gnosticism. See Gnosticism .

The most striking characteristic of John is its difference from the other three Gospels. The sequence of Jesus' ministry, the vocabulary and tone of Jesus' words, even the day on which Jesus is crucified are different in John than in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The constant reference to miracles as “signs,” the “I am” speeches, and the total exclusion of story-like parables also set John apart from the other three.

Rejected Gospels The early church perceived God's inspiration in the four Gospels of the Bible, yet several other books which presented themselves as gospels also circulated during the church's early history. These “gospels” were either inadequate Jewish interpretations of Jesus, or works heavily influenced by Gnostic heretics. All of the known rejected gospels were written much later than the four included in the New Testament, most commonly between A.D. 120,150. Among these works are The Gospel of the Ebionites , The Gospel According to the Hebrews , The Gospel According to the Egyptians , The Gospel of the Naassenes , The Gospel of Peter , and The Gospel of Thomas .

God did lead the church to preserve four gospels so that it could continue to preserve and proclaim the richness of the gospel message of salvation to the diverse peoples of the world in their diverse needs.

P. Joel Snider

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [4]

a history of the life, actions, death, resurrection, ascension, and doctrine of Jesus Christ. The word is Saxon, and of the same import with the Latin term evangelium, or the Greek ευαγγελιον , which signifies "glad tidings," or "good news;" the history of our Saviour being the best history ever published to mankind. The history is contained in the writings of St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John, who from thence are called evangelists. The Christian church never acknowledged any more than these four Gospels as canonical: notwithstanding which, several apocryphal gospels are handed down to us, and others are entirely lost.

The four Gospels contain each of them the history of our Saviour's life and ministry; but we must remember, that no one of the evangelists undertook to give an account of all the miracles which Christ performed, or of all the instructions which he delivered. They are written with different degrees of conciseness; but every one of them is sufficiently full to prove that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Saviour of the world, who had been predicted by a long succession of prophets, and whose advent was expected at the time of his appearance, both by Jews and Gentiles.

2. That all the books which convey to us the history of events under the New Testament were written and immediately published by persons contemporary with the events, is most fully proved by the testimony of an unbroken series of authors, reaching from the days of the evangelists to the present times; by the concurrent belief of Christians of all denominations; and by the unreserved confession of avowed enemies to the Gospel. In this point of view the writings of the ancient fathers of the Christian church are invaluable. They contain not only frequent references and allusions to the books of the New Testament, but also such numerous professed quotations from them, that it is demonstratively certain that these books existed in their present state a few years after the conclusion of Christ's ministry upon earth. No unbeliever in the apostolic age, in the age immediately subsequent to it, or, indeed, in any age whatever, was ever able to disprove the facts recorded in these books; and it does not appear that in the early times any such attempt was made. The facts, therefore, related in the New Testament, must be admitted to have really happened. But if all the circumstances of the history of Jesus, that is, his miraculous conception in the womb of the virgin, the time at which he was born, the place where he was born, the family from which he was descended, the nature of the doctrines which he preached, the meanness of his condition, his rejection, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, with many other minute particulars; if all these various circumstances in the history of Jesus exactly accord with the predictions of the Old Testament relative to the promised Messiah, in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed, it follows that Jesus was that Messiah. And again: if Jesus really performed the miracles as related in the Gospels, and was perfectly acquainted with the thoughts and designs of men, his divine mission cannot be doubted. Lastly: if he really foretold his own death and resurrection, the descent of the Holy Ghost, its miraculous effects, the sufferings of the Apostles, the call of the Gentiles, and the destruction of Jerusalem, it necessarily follows that he spake by the authority of God himself. These, and many other arguments, founded in the more than human character of Jesus, in the rapid propagation of the Gospel, in the excellence of its precepts and doctrines, and in the constancy, intrepidity, and fortitude of its early professors, incontrovertibly establish the truth and divine origin of the Christian religion, and afford to us, who live in these latter times, the most positive confirmation of the promise of our Lord, that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

3. The Gospels recount those wonderful and important events with which the Christian religion and its divine Author were introduced into the world, and which have produced so great a change in the principles, the manners, the morals, and the temporal as well as spiritual condition of mankind.

They relate the first appearance of Christ upon earth, his extraordinary and miraculous birth, the testimony borne to him by his forerunner, John the Baptist, the temptation in the wilderness, the opening of his divine commission, the pure, the perfect, and sublime morality which he taught, especially in his inimitable sermon on the mount, the infinite superiority which he showed to every other moral teacher, both in the matter and manner of his discourses, more particularly by crushing vice in its very cradle, in the first risings of wicked desires and propensities in the heart, by giving a decided preference to the mild, gentle, passive, conciliating virtues, before that violent, vindictive, high-spirited, unforgiving temper, which has been always too much the favourite character of the world; by requiring us to forgive our very enemies, and to do good to them that hate us; by excluding from our devotions, our alms, and all our virtues, all regard to fame, reputation, and applause; by laying down two great general principles of morality, love to God, and love to mankind, and deducing from thence every other human duty; by conveying his instructions under the easy, familiar, and impressive form of parables; by expressing himself in a tone of dignity and authority unknown before; by exemplifying every virtue that he taught in his own unblemished and perfect life and conversation; and, above all, by adding those awful sanctions, which he alone, of all moral instructers, had the power to hold out, eternal rewards to the virtuous, and eternal punishments to the wicked. The sacred narratives then represent to us the high character that he assumed; the claim he made to a divine original; the wonderful miracles he wrought in proof of his divinity; the various prophecies which plainly marked him out as the Messiah, the great Deliverer of the Jews; the declarations he made that he came to offer himself a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind; the cruel indignities, sufferings, and persecutions to which, in consequence of this great design, he was exposed; the accomplishment or it, by the painful and ignominious death to which he submitted, by his resurrection after three days from the grave, by his ascension into heaven, by his sitting there at the right hand of God, and performing the office of a Mediator and Intercessor for the sinful sons of men, till he shall come a second time in his glory to sit in judgment on all mankind, and decide their final doom of happiness or misery for ever. These are the momentous, the interesting, truths on which the Gospels principally dwell.

4. We find in the ancient records a twofold order, in which the evangelists are arranged. They stand either thus, Matthew, John, Luke, Mark; or thus, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. The first is made with reference to the character and the rank of the persons, according to which the Apostles precede their assistants and attendants ( ακολουθοις , comitibus. ) It is observed in the oldest Latin translations and in the Gothic; sometimes also in the works of Latin teachers; but among all the Greek MSS. only in that at Cambridge. But the other, namely, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, is, in all the old translations of Asia and Africa, in all catalogues of the canonical books, and in Greek MSS. in general, the customary and established one as it regarded not personal circumstances, but as it had respect to chronological; which is to us a plain indication what accounts concerning the succession of the evangelists, the Asiatic and Greek churches, and also those of Africa, had before them, when the Christian books were arranged in collections. It is a considerable advantage, says Michaelis, that a history of such importance as that of Jesus Christ has been recorded by the pens of separate and independent writers, who, from the variations which are visible in these accounts, have incontestably proved that they did not unite with a view of imposing a fabulous narrative on mankind. That St. Matthew had never seen the Gospel of St. Luke, nor St. Luke the Gospel of St. Matthew, is evident from a comparison of their writings. The Gospel of St. Mark, which was written later, must likewise have been unknown to St. Luke; and that St. Mark had ever read the Gospel of St. Luke, is at least improbable, because their Gospels so frequently differ. It is a generally received opinion, that St. Mark made use of St. Matthew's Gospel in the composition of his own; but this is an unfounded hypothesis. The Gospel of St. John, being written after the other three, supplies what they had omitted. Thus have we four distinct and independent writers of one and the same history; and, though trifling variations may seem to exist in their narratives, yet these admit of easy solutions; and in all matters of consequence, whether doctrinal or historical, there is such a manifest agreement between them as is to be found in no other writings whatever. Though we have only four original writers of the life of Jesus, the evidence of the history does not rest on the testimony of four men. Christianity had been propagated in a great part of the world before any of them had written, on the testimony of thousands and tens of thousands, who had been witnesses of the great facts which they have recorded; so that the writing of these particular books is not to be considered as the cause, but rather the effect, of the belief of Christianity; nor could those books have been written and received as they were, namely, as authentic histories, of the subject of which all persons of that age were judges, if the facts they have recorded had not been well known to be true.

5. The term Gospel is often used in Scripture to signify the whole Christian doctrine: hence, "preaching the Gospel" is declaring all the truths, precepts, promises, and threatenings of Christianity. This is termed "the Gospel of the grace of God," because it flows from God's free love and goodness,   Acts 20:24; and when truly and faithfully preached, is accompanied with the influences of the divine Spirit. It is called "the Gospel of the kingdom," because it treats of the kingdom of grace, and shows the way to the kingdom of glory. It is styled, "the Gospel of Christ," because he is the Author and great subject of it,  Romans 1:16; and "the Gospel of peace and salvation," because it publishes peace with God to the penitent and believing, gives, to such, peace of conscience and tranquillity of mind, and is the means of their salvation, present and eternal. As it displays the glory of God and of Christ, and ensures to his true followers eternal glory, it is entitled, "the glorious Gospel," and, "the everlasting Gospel," because it commenced from the fall of man, is permanent throughout all time, and produces effects which are everlasting.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [5]

A — 1: Εὐαγγέλιον (Strong'S #2098 — Noun Neuter — euangelion — yoo-ang-ghel'-ee-on )

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 NT 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—Peter 4:17 . Apart from those references and those in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and  Revelation 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.,  1—Corinthians 15:1-3; (b) of the interpretation of these facts, e.g.,  Romans 2:16;  Galatians 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.

 Mark 1:14 Romans 1:1 15:16 2—Corinthians 11:7 1—Thessalonians 2:2,9 1—Peter 4:17 Romans 1:1-3 Romans 1:9 Mark 1:1 2—Thessalonians 1:8 Romans 15:19 2—Corinthians 4:4 Acts 20:24 1—Timothy 1:11 Ephesians 1:13 Ephesians 6:15 Matthew 4:23 9:35 24:14 Revelation 14:6 Galatians 2:14 Matthew 4:23 Galatians 2:2  1—Thessalonians 2:2 Acts 20:24 1—Corinthians 15:1 2—Corinthians 11:7 Galatians 1:11  1—Corinthians 9:14 Philippians 2:22 Philippians 4:3 Romans 15:16 Romans 15:19 2—Timothy 1:8 2—Corinthians 11:4 Romans 10:16 2—Thessalonians 1:8 Mark 1:15 Galatians 1:7 1—Corinthians 9:23

B — 1: Εὐαγγελίζω (Strong'S #2097 — Verb — euangelizo — yoo-ang-ghel-id'-zo )

"to bring or announce glad tidings" (Eng., "evangelize"), is used (a) in the Active Voice in  Revelation 10:7 ("declared") and   Revelation 14:6 ("to proclaim," RV, AV, "to preach"); (b) in the Passive Voice, of matters to be proclaimed as "glad tidings,"   Luke 16:16;  Galatians 1:11;  1—Peter 1:25; of persons to whom the proclamation is made,  Matthew 11:5;  Luke 7:22;  Hebrews 4:2,6;  1—Peter 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;  Galatians 1:16 , or, with a preposition, of the persons evangelized, e.g.,  Acts 13:32 , "declare glad tidings;"  Romans 1:15;  Galatians 1:8; with an impersonal object, e.g., "the word,"  Acts 8:4; "good tidings,"  Acts 8:12; "the word of the Lord,"  Acts 15:35; "the gospel,"  1—Corinthians 15:1;  2—Corinthians 11:7; "the faith,"  Galatians 1:23; "peace,"  Ephesians 2:17; "the unsearchable riches of Christ,  Ephesians 3:8 . See Preach , Shew , Tidings.

B — 2: Προευαγγελίζομαι (Strong'S #4283 — Verb — proeuangelizomai — pro-yoo-ang-ghel-id'-zom-ahee )

"to announce glad tidings beforehand," is used in  Galatians 3:8 .

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [6]

In simple terms ‘gospel’ means ‘good news’. When God’s Old Testament people Israel were in captivity in Babylon and God announced to them that he was going to release them and bring them back to their homeland, that was good news ( Isaiah 40:9;  Isaiah 52:7;  Isaiah 61:1-2). When Jesus came to release people from the bondage of Satan and give them new life, that too was good news ( Luke 4:16-19).

Based on facts

The gospel that Jesus Christ proclaimed was that the promises God gave to Old Testament Israel were now fulfilled in him. The promised kingdom of God had come, and salvation was available to all who would repent of their sins and trust in him for forgiveness ( Mark 1:14-15; see Kingdom Of God ).

Early Christian preachers, such as Peter, John, Stephen and Paul, preached the same message. But whereas Jesus’ preaching of the gospel was during the period leading up to his death and resurrection, the early Christians’ preaching followed his death and resurrection. They therefore laid great emphasis on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection as historical facts that no one could deny. Those facts were the basis of the gospel they preached ( Acts 2:22-42;  Acts 3:12-26;  Acts 7:1-53;  Acts 13:17-41;  1 Corinthians 15:1-7).

There is only one gospel ( Galatians 1:6-9). It is called the gospel of God, or the gospel of the grace of God, to emphasize that it originates in God and his grace ( Acts 20:24;  Romans 15:16;  1 Thessalonians 2:2;  1 Thessalonians 2:8;  1 Timothy 1:11). It is called the gospel of Christ, or the gospel of the glory of Christ, to emphasize that it comes only through Jesus Christ ( Romans 15:19;  2 Corinthians 2:12;  2 Corinthians 4:4;  2 Corinthians 9:13). It is called the gospel of the kingdom, the gospel of salvation and the gospel of peace, to emphasize that those who believe it enter God’s kingdom and receive eternal salvation and peace ( Matthew 9:35;  Ephesians 1:13;  Ephesians 6:15).

A message of life

Because the gospel is inseparably linked with the great truths of God’s saving work through Christ, ‘gospel’ has a meaning far wider than simply ‘news’. It refers to the whole message of salvation, and even to salvation itself ( Mark 8:35;  Mark 10:29;  Romans 1:1-4;  Romans 1:16-17;  Ephesians 3:7;  1 Peter 1:25; see Justification ; Salvation ). Through it the power of God works, bringing life to those who accept it, and destruction to those who reject it ( Romans 1:16;  2 Corinthians 4:3;  Hebrews 4:2). Sometimes the single word ‘gospel’ is used for the body of Christian truth, or even for the whole new way of life that comes through Jesus Christ ( Romans 16:25;  Philippians 1:7;  Philippians 1:27).

God entrusts the gospel to Christians so that they might preserve it and pass it on to others ( Galatians 2:7;  1 Thessalonians 2:4;  1 Timothy 1:11). Therefore, while it is God’s gospel, it becomes in a sense their gospel ( Romans 2:16;  1 Thessalonians 1:5;  2 Timothy 2:8). Christians have a responsibility to spread this gospel worldwide, even though it may mean sacrificing personal desires and suffering personal hardships. They will carry out the task gladly when they appreciate what God’s love has done for them through Christ ( Matthew 24:14;  Mark 16:15;  1 Corinthians 9:16;  1 Corinthians 9:23;  2 Corinthians 5:14;  Ephesians 6:19-20;  1 Thessalonians 2:2; see Evangelist ; Mission ).

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [7]

Signifies good news, and is that revelation and dispensation which God has made known to guilty man through Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer. Scripture speaks of "the gospel of the kingdom,"  Matthew 24:14 , the gospel "of the grace of God,"  Acts 20:24 , "of Christ," and "of peace,"  Romans 1:16   10:15 . It is the "glorious" and the "everlasting" gospel,  1 Timothy 1:11   Revelation 14:6 , and well merits the noblest epithets that can be given it. The declaration of this gospel was made through the life and teaching, the death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord.

The writings which contain the recital of our Savior's life, miracles, death, resurrection, and doctrine, are called GOSPELS, because they include the best news that could be published to mankind. We have four canonical gospelsthose of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These have not only been generally received, but they were received very early as the standards of evangelical history, as the depositories of the doctrines and actions of Jesus. They are appealed to under that character both by friends and enemies; and no writer impugning or defending Christianity acknowledges any other gospel as of equal or concurrent authority, although there were many others which purported to be authentic memoirs of the life and actions of Christ. Some of these apocryphal gospels are still extant. They contain many errors and legends, but have some indirect value.

There appears to be valid objection to the idea entertained by many, that the evangelists copied from each other or from an earlier and fuller gospel. Whether Mark wrote with the gospel by Matthew before him, and Luke with Matthew and Mark both, or not, we know that they "spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," while recounting the works and sayings of Christ which they had seen or knew to be true, using no doubt the most authentic written and oral accounts of the same, current among the disciples. They have not at all confined themselves to the strict order of time and place.

Gospel Of Matthew The time when this gospel was written is very uncertain. All ancient testimony, however, goes to show that it was published before the others. It is believed by many to have been written about A. D. 38. It has been much disputed whether this gospel was originally written in Hebrew or Greek. The unanimous testimony of ancient writers is in favor of a Hebrew original, that is, that it was written in the language of Palestine and for the use of the Hebrew Christians. But, on the other hand, the definiteness and accuracy of this testimony is drawn into question; there is no historical notice of a translation into Greek; and the present Greek gospel bears many marks of being an original; the circumstances of the age, too, and the prevalence of the Greek language in Palestine, seem to give weight to the opposite hypothesis. Critics of he greatest name are arranged on both sides of the question; and some who believe it to have been first written in Hebrew, think that the author himself afterwards made a Greek version. Matthew writes as "an Israelite indeed," a guileless converted Jew instructing his brethren. He often quotes from the Old Testament. He represents the Savior as the fulfillment of the hopes of Israel, the promised Messiah, King of the kingdom of God.

Gospel Of Mark Ancient writers agree in the statement that Mark, not himself an apostle, wrote his gospel under the influence and direction of the apostle Peter. The same traditionary authority, though with less unanimity and evidence, makes it to have been written at Rome, and published after the death of Peter and Paul. Mark wrote primarily for the Gentiles, as appears from his frequent explanations of Jewish customs, etc. He exhibits Christ as the divine Prophet, mighty in deed and word. He is a true evangelical historian, relating facts more than discourses, in a concise, simple, rapid style, with occasional minute and graphic details.

Gospel Of Luke Luke is said to have written his gospel under the direction of Paul, whose companion he was on many journeys. His expanded views and catholic spirit resemble those of the great apostle to the Gentiles; and his gospel represents Christ as the compassionate Friend of sinners, the Savior of the world. It appears to have been written primarily for Theophilus, some noble Greek or Roman, and its date is generally supposed to be about A. D. 63.

Gospel Of John The ancient writers all make this gospel the latest. Some place its publication in the first year of the emperor Nerva, A. D. 96, sixty-seven years after our Savior's death, and when John was now more than eighty years of age. The gospel of John reveals Christ as the divine and divinely appointed Redeemer, the Son of God manifested in flesh. It is a spiritual, rather than historical gospel, omitting many things chronicled by the other evangelists, and containing much more than they do as to the new life in the soul through Christ, union with him, regeneration, the resurrection, and the work of the Holy Spirit. The spirit of the "disciple whom Jesus loved" pervades this precious gospel. It had a special adaptation to refute the Gnostic heresies of that time, but is equally fitted to build up the church of Christ in all generations.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [8]

GOSPEL . This word (lit. ‘God-story’) represents Greek euangelion , which reappears in one form or another in ecclesiastical Latin and in most modern languages. In classical Greek the word means the reward given to a bearer of good tidings (so   2 Samuel 4:10 LXX [Note: Septuagint.] in pl.), but afterwards it came to mean the message itself, and so in   2 Samuel 18:20;   2 Samuel 18:22;   2 Samuel 18:25 [LXX [Note: Septuagint.] ] a derived word is used in this sense. In NT the word means ‘good tidings’ about the salvation of the world by the coming of Jesus Christ. It is not there used of the written record. A genitive case or a possessive pronoun accompanying it denotes: ( a ) the person or the thing preached (the gospel of Christ, or of peace, or of salvation, or of the grace of God, or of God, or of the Kingdom,   Matthew 4:23;   Matthew 9:35;   Matthew 24:14 ,   Mark 1:14 ,   Acts 20:24 ,   Romans 15:19 ,   Ephesians 1:13;   Ephesians 6:15 etc.); or sometimes ( b ) the preacher (  Mark 1:1 (?),   Romans 2:16;   Romans 16:25 ,   2 Corinthians 4:3 etc.); or rarely ( c ) the persons preached to (  Galatians 2:7 ). ‘The gospel’ is often used in NT absolutely, as in   Mark 1:15;   Mark 8:35;   Mark 14:9 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ,   Mark 16:15 ,   Acts 15:7 ,   Romans 11:28 ,   2 Corinthians 8:16 (where the idea must not be entertained that the reference is to Luke as an Evangelist ), and so ‘this gospel,’   Matthew 26:13; but English readers should bear in mind that usually (though not in   Mark 16:15 ) the EV [Note: English Version.] phrase ‘to preach the gospel’ represents a simple verb of the Greek. The noun is not found in Lk., Heb., or the Catholic Epistles, and only once in the Johannine writings (  Revelation 14:6 , ‘an eternal gospel’ an angelic message). In   Romans 10:16 ‘the gospel’ is used absolutely of the message of the OT prophets.

The written record was not called ‘the Gospel’ till a later age. By the earliest generation of Christians the oral teaching was the main thing regarded; men told what they had heard and seen, or what they had received from eye-witnesses. As these died out and the written record alone remained, the perspective altered. The earliest certain use of the word in this sense is in Justin Martyr ( c [Note: circa, about.] . a.d. 150: ‘The Apostles in the Memoirs written by themselves, which are called Gospels,’ Apol . 1. 66; cf. ‘the Memoirs which were drawn up by His Apostles and those who followed them,’ Dial . 103), though some find it in Ignatius and the Didache . The earliest known titles of the Evangelic records (which, however, we cannot assert to be contemporary with the records themselves) are simply ‘According to Matthew,’ etc.

A. J. Maclean.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [9]

Gospel. From the Anglo-Saxon God-Spell, "good tidings," is the English translation of the Greek Euaggelion, which signifies "good" or "glad tidings."  Luke 2:10;  Acts 13:32. The same word in the original is rendered in  Romans 10:15 by the two equivalents "gospel" and "glad tidings." The term refers to the good news of the new dispensation of redemption ushered in by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The "good news" is denominated either simply the "gospel,"  Matthew 26:13, or else "the gospel of the kingdom,"  Matthew 9:35; of "Jesus Christ,"

 Mark 1:1; "of peace,"  Romans 10:15 A. V., but omitted in R. V.;  Ephesians 6:15; of "salvation,"  Ephesians 1:13; of "God,"  1 Thessalonians 2:9; and of grace.  Acts 20:24. The four Gospels were issued probably during the latter half of the first century—those of Matthew and Mark and Luke before the destruction of Jerusalem; and that of John towards the close of the century. Before the end of the second century, there is abundant evidence that the four Gospels, as one collection, were generally used and accepted. In the fourth Gospel the narrative coincides with that of the other three in a few passages only. The common explanation is that John, writing last, at the close of the first century, had seen the other Gospels, and purposely abstained from writing anew what they had sufficiently recorded. In the other three Gospels there is a great amount of agreement. If we suppose the history that they contain to be divided into 89 sections, in 42 of these all the three narratives coincide, 12 more are given by Matthew and Mark only, 5 by Mark and Luke only, and 14 by Matthew and Luke. To these must be added 5 peculiar to  Matthew 2:1-23 to  Mark 9:1-50 to Luke, and the enumeration is complete. But this applies only to general coincidence as to the facts narrated—the amount of verbal coincidence, that is, the passages either verbally the same or coinciding in the use of many of the same words, is much smaller. The First Gomel was prepared by Matthew for the Jew. He gives us the Gospel of Jesus, the Messiah of the Jews, the Messianic royalty of Jesus. Mark wrote the Second Gospel from the preaching of Peter. Luke wrote the Third Gospel for the Greek. It is the gospel of the future, of progressive Christianity, of reason and culture seeking the perfection of manhood. John, "the beloved disciple," wrote the Fourth Gospel for the Christian, to cherish and train those who have entered the new kingdom of Christ, into the highest spiritual life. See Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Paul says: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth."  Romans 1:16. To the Corinthians he writes: "I came not to you with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified."  1 Corinthians 2:1-2.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [10]

The revelation of the grace of God to fallen man through a mediator. It is taken also for the history of the life, actions, death, resurrection, ascension, and doctrine of Jesus Christ. The word is Saxon, and of the same import with the Latin evangelium, which signifies glad tidings or good news. It is called the Gospel of his Grace, because it flows from his free love,  Acts 20:24 . The Gospel of the kingdom, as it treats of the kingdoms of grace and glory. The Gospel of Christ, because he is the author and subject of it,  Romans 1:16 . The Gospel of peace and salvation, as it promotes our present comfort and leads to eternal glory,  Ephesians 1:13;  Ephesians 6:15 . The glorious Gospel, as in it the glorious perfections of Jehovah are displayed,  2 Corinthians 4:4 . The everlasting Gospel, as it was designed from eternity, is permanent in time, and the effects of it eternal,  Revelation 14:6 . There are about thirty or forty apocryphal Gospels; as the Gospel of St. Peter, of St. Andrew, of St. Barnabas, the eternal Gospel, &c. &c. &c. : but they were never received by the Christian church, being evidently fabulous and trifling.

See CHRISTIANITY.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [11]

Or God's spell. This is a Saxon word, meaning good tidings. The Greeks called the gospel evangelical; hence the writers of it are called Evangelists. The word itself, as used in modern language, means the proclamation of pardon, mercy, and peace, in and through Jesus Christ our Lord. And so infinitely important and interesting is it in the eyes of all men that are made partakers of its saving grace, that the very feet of them that are commissioned to preach it are said to be beautiful. "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" ( Isaiah 52:7) And, indeed, the gospel is, without exception, the best news JEHOVAH ever proclaimed to man, or man ever heard. Angels thought so, when at the command of God they posted down from heaven, at the birth of Christ, as if ambitious to be the first preachers of it to a lost world, and in a multitude of the heavenly host met together, to proclaim the blessed tidings to the Jewish shepherds, saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will towards men." ( Luke 2:13-14)

Easton's Bible Dictionary [12]

  • The term is often used to express collectively the gospel doctrines; and 'preaching the gospel' is often used to include not only the proclaiming of the good tidings, but the teaching men how to avail themselves of the offer of salvation, the declaring of all the truths, precepts, promises, and threatenings of Christianity." It is termed "the gospel of the grace of God" (  Acts 20:24 ), "the gospel of the kingdom" ( Matthew 4:23 ), "the gospel of Christ" ( Romans 1:16 ), "the gospel of peace ( Ephesians 6:15 ), "the glorious gospel," "the everlasting gospel," "the gospel of salvation" ( Ephesians 1:13 ).

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Gospel'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/ebd/g/gospel.html. 1897.

  • King James Dictionary [13]

    GOS'PEL, n. L. evangelium, a good or joyful message.

    The history of the birth, life, actions, death, resurrection, ascension and doctrines of Jesus Christ or a revelation of the grace of God to fallen man through a mediator, including the character, actions, and doctrines of Christ, with the whole scheme of salvation, as revealed by Christ and his apostles. This gospel is said to have been preached to Abraham, by the promise, "in thee shall all nations be blessed."  Galatians 3:8 .

    It is called the gospel of God.  Romans 1:1 .

    It is called the gospel of Christ.  Romans 1:16 .

    It is called the gospel of salvation.  Ephesians 1.13 .

    1. God's word. 2. Divinity theology. 3. Any general doctrine.

    GOS'PEL, To instruct in the gospel or to fill with sentiments of religion.

    International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [14]

    gos´pel ( τὸ εὐαγγέλιον , tó euaggélion ): The word gospel is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word which meant "the story concerning God." In the New Testament the Greek word euaggelion , means "good news." It proclaims tidings of deliverance. The word sometimes stands for the record of the life of our Lord (  Mark 1:1 ), embracing all His teachings, as in  Acts 20:24 . But the word "gospel" now has a peculiar use, and describes primarily the message which Christianity announces. "Good news" is its significance. It means a gift from God. It is the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins and sonship with God restored through Christ. It means remission of sins and reconciliation with God. The gospel is not only a message of salvation, but also the instrument through which the Holy Spirit works ( Romans 1:16 ).

    The gospel differs from the law in being known entirely from revelation. It is proclaimed in all its fullness in the revelation given in the New Testament. It is also found, although obscurely, in the Old Testament. It begins with the prophecy concerning the 'seed of the woman' ( Genesis 3:15 ), and the promise concerning Abraham, in whom all the nations should be blessed ( Genesis 12:3;  Genesis 15:5 ) and is also indicated in  Acts 10:43 and in the argument in Rom 4.

    In the New Testament the gospel never means simply a book, but rather the message which Christ and His apostles announced. In some places it is called "the gospel of God," as, for example,  Romans 1:1;  1 Thessalonians 2:2 ,  1 Thessalonians 2:9;  1 Timothy 1:11 . In others it is called "the gospel of Christ" ( Mark 1:1;  Romans 1:16;  Romans 15:19;  1 Corinthians 9:12 ,  1 Corinthians 9:18;  Galatians 1:7 ). In another it is called "the gospel of the grace of God" ( Acts 20:24 ); in another "the gospel of peace" ( Ephesians 6:15 ); in another "the gospel of your salvation" ( Ephesians 1:13 ); and in yet another "the glorious gospel" ( 2 Corinthians 4:4 the King James Version). The gospel is Christ: He is the subject of it, the object of it, and the life of it. It was preached by Him (  Matthew 4:23;  Matthew 11:5;  Mark 1:14;  Luke 4:18 margin), by the apostles (  Acts 16:10;  Romans 1:15;  Romans 2:16;  1 Corinthians 9:16 ) and by the evangelists ( Acts 8:25 ).

    We must note the clear antithesis between the law and the gospel. The distinction between the two is important because, as Luther indicates, it contains the substance of all Christian doctrine. "By the law," says he, "nothing else is meant than God's word and command, directing what to do and what to leave undone, and requiring of us obedience of works. But the gospel is such doctrine of the word of God that neither requires our works nor commands us to do anything, but announces the offered grace of the forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation. Here we do nothing, but only receive what is offered through the word." The gospel, then, is the message of God, the teaching of Christianity, the redemption in and by Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, offered to all mankind. And as the gospel is bound up in the life of Christ, His biography and the record of His works, and the proclamation of what He has to offer, are all gathered into this single word, of which no better definition can be given than that of Melanchthon: "The gospel is the gratuitous promise of the remission of sins for Christ's sake." To hold tenaciously that in this gospel we have a supernatural revelation is in perfect consistency with the spirit of scientific inquiry. The gospel, as the whole message and doctrine of salvation, and as chiefly efficacious for contrition, faith, justification, renewal and sanctification, deals with facts of revelation and experience.

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [15]

    This word, "conformably to its etymological meaning of Good-tidings, is used to signify,

    (1.) The Welcome intelligence of salvation to man, as preached by our Lord and his followers.

    (2.) It was afterwards transitively applied to each of the four Histories Of Our Lord'S Life, published by those who are" therefore called "Evangelists," writers of the history of the Gospel ( Εὐαγγἐλιον ).

    (3.) "The term is often used to express collectively, the Gospel-Doctrines; and 'preaching the Gospel' is accordingly often used to include not only the 'proclaiming' of the good tidings, but the 'teaching' men how to avail themselves of the offer of salvation;" the declaring of all the truths, precepts, promises, and threatenings of Christianity. It is termed "the Gospel of the grace of God," because it flows from God's free love and goodness ( Acts 20:24); and, when truly and faithfully preached, is accompanied with the influences of the divine Spirit. It is called "the Gospel of the kingdom," because it treats of the kingdom of grace, and shows the way to the kingdom of glory. It is styled "the Gospel of Christ" because he is the author and great subject of it ( Romans 1:16); and "the Gospel of peace and salvation," because it publishes peace with God to the penitent and believing, gives, to such, peace of conscience and tranquillity of mind, and is the means of their salvation, present and eternal. As it displays the glory of God and of Christ, and ensures to his true followers eternal glory, it is entitled "the glorious Gospel" and "the everlasting Gospel," because it commenced from the fall of man, is permanent throughout all time, and produces effects which are everlasting. This use of the word "gospel" has led some to suppose that Gospel-truth is to be found exclusively or chiefly in the "Gospels," to the neglect of the other sacred writings; and others, to conclude that the discourses of our Lord and the apostolic epistles must exactly coincide, and that in case of any apparent difference, the former must be the standard and the latter must be taken to bear no other sense than what is implied by the other. Whereas, it is very conceivable, that though both might be, in a certain sense, "good tidings," yet one may contain a much more full development of the Christian scheme than the other (Eden; Watson). It has been disputed whether the Gospel consists merely of promises, or whether it can in any sense be called a law. The answer plainly depends upon adjusting, the meaning of the words gospel and law. If the gospel be taken for the declaration God has made to men by Christ, concerning the manner in which he will treat them, and the conduct he expects from them, it in plain that this includes commands, and even threatenings, as well as promisesa; but to define the Gospel so as only to express the favorable part of that declaration, is indeed taking the question for granted, and confining the word to a sense much less extensive than it often has in Scripture (comp.  Romans 2:16;  2 Thessalonians 1:8;  1 Timothy 1:9-11); and it is certain that, if the Gospel be put for all the parts of the dispensation taken, in connection one with another, it may well be called, on the whole, a good message. In like manner the question, whether the Gospel be a law or not, is to be determined by the definition of the law and of the Gospel, as above. If law signifies, as it generally does, the discovery of the will of a superior, teaching what he requires of those under his government, with the intimation of his intention of dispensing rewards and punishments, as this rule of their conduct is observed or neglected; in this latitude of expression it is plain, from the proposition, that the Gospel, taken for the declaration made to men by Christ, is a law, as in Scripture it is sometimes called ( James 1:25;  Romans 4:15;  Romans 8:2). But if law be taken, in the greatest rigor of the expression, for such a discovery of the will of God and our duty, as to contain in it no intimation of our obtaining the divine favor otherwise' than by' a perfect and universal conformity to it, in that sense the Gospel is not a law. See Witsilus, On The Covenants , volume 3, chapter 1; Doddridge, Lectures , lect. 172; Watts, Orthodoxy and Charity, Essay 2.

    Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [16]

    The Greek word, which literally signifies glad tidings, is translated in the English Version by the word Gospel, viz., God's spell, or the Word of God. The central point of Christian preaching was the joyful intelligence that the Savior had come into the world ; and the first Christian preachers, who characterized their account of the person and mission of Christ by the term Gospel. This name was also prefixed to the written accounts of Christ. We possess four such accounts; the first by Matthew, announcing the Redeemer as the promised King of the Kingdom of God; the second by Mark, declaring him 'a Prophet mighty in deed and word' the third by Luke, of whom it might be said that he represented Christ in the special character of the Savior of sinners (, sq.; 15:18-19, sq.); the fourth by John, who represents Christ as the Son of God, in whom deity and humanity became one. The ancient church gave to Matthew the symbol of the lion, to Mark that of man, to Luke that of the ox, and to John that of the eagle; these were the four faces of the cherubim. The cloud in which the Lord revealed Himself was borne by the cherubim, and the four Evangelists were also the bearers of that glory of God which appeared in the form of man.

    Concerning the order which they occupy in the Scriptures, the oldest Latin and Gothic Versions place Matthew and John first, and after them Mark and Luke, while the other MSS. and the old versions follow the order given to them in our Bibles. As dogmatical reasons render a different order more natural, there is much in favor of the opinion that their usual position arose from regard to the chronological dates of the respective composition of the four gospels: this is the opinion of Origen, Irenaeus, and Eusebius. All ancient testimonies agree that Matthew was the earliest, and John the latest Evangelist. The relation of the Gospel of John to the other three Gospels, and the relation of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke to each other, is very remarkable. With the exception of the history of the Baptist, and that of Christ's passion and resurrection, we find in John not only narratives of quite different events, but also different statements even in the above sections. On the other hand, the first three Evangelists not only tolerably harmonize in the substance and order of the events they relate, but correspond even sentence by sentence in their separate narratives (comp. ex. gr. with;;;; , etc.). The thought that first suggests itself on considering this surprising harmony is that they all had mutually drawn their information from one another. Some critics are of opinion that Matthew was the oldest source, and that Mark drew his information both from Matthew and Luke; again, according to others, Luke was the oldest, and Matthew made use of Luke and Mark; while most critics in Germany have adopted the view that Matthew was the oldest, and was made use of by Luke, and that Mark derived his information both from Matthew and Luke. Some of the most modern critics are, on the other hand, of opinion that Mark was the original evangelist, and that Matthew and Luke derived their information from him. The difference of these opinions leads to the suspicion that none of them are right, more especially when we consider that, notwithstanding the partial harmony of the three evangelists in the choice of their sentences, there is still a surprising difference in them as regards the words of those sentences; a fact which compelled the critics who suppose that the evangelists made use of each other's writings, to account everywhere for such deviations, and frequently to have recourse to the most trivial and pedantic arguments. To us these differences in word and phrase would appear inconceivable were we disposed to assume that the evangelists had copied one another.

    As the three Evangelists mutually supply and explain each other, they were early joined to each other, by Tatian, about A.D. 170, and by Ammonius, about A.D. 230, and the discrepancies among them early led to attempts to reconcile them. And with this view various elaborate treatises have been composed, both in ancient and modern times. But when we consider that one and the same writer, namely, Luke, relates the conversion of Paul , with different incidental circumstances, after three various documents, though it would have been very easy for him to have annulled the discrepancies, we cannot help being convinced that the Evangelists attached but little weight to minute preciseness in the incidents, since, indeed, the historical truth of a narration consists less in them, in the relation of minute details, than in the correct conception of the character and spirit of the event.

    References