July 15, 2008

Reflecting on the word gospel (euangelion) in Paul

I'm preaching next weekend (May 27) at my home church, Oxboro Evangelical Free Church, in Bloomington, MN. I'm excited about the prospect, especially since God had just been laying something on my heart the day before I was contacted by the pastor last week about filling the pulpit while he is on vacation. One component of what I'm speaking on has to do with "gospel" in Paul. (My main thrust has to do with faith, but we'll get there later.) So I've been reflecting on what Paul means by "gospel" or "good news." So here are some beginning thoughts on how Paul uses this word, specifically in Romans.

1. It can refer simply to the preaching about Jesus Christ, that is, the "good news" of Jesus and his death and resurrection. And it should be said it is always intimately connected with Jesus Christ.
2. The gospel is Paul's purpose and mission, the goal of his apostleship and the message he is to preach.
3. The gospel is the revelation of God's purposes, from time immemorial; it is the culmination of the disclosure of what God is about in the world.
3. The gospel is the means of salvation, it is the way to be come acceptable before God; the converse is also true: it includes judgment upon those who do not believe.

Here are some preliminary thoughts. It is amazing how much content is connected with this word, not that it is surprising. And this short little list certainly doesn't exhaust the nuance Paul gives. I also will be looking at Thayers and other lexica as well as TDNT, but I wanted to do my own leg work first. (Any thoughts, disagreements, or contributions are of course welcome.)


Anonymous said...

Another interesting question that your exploration raises is whether it is really appropriate to consistently translate euangellion as "good news": If it includes judgment (as it does not only in Paul but also on the lips of Jesus), then perhaps something closer to what it meant for Caesar might be appropriate: "BIG news"...

James K. said...


I think you are just right, and the use of the word relating to Caesar coming to power, for instance, seems a very fitting parallel to Paul's claims about the significance of Jesus Christ (especially considering the Roman destination of his "gospel" letter).