A word of Anglo-Saxon origin, and meaning "God's spell", i.e., word of God, or rather, according to others, "good spell", i.e., good news. It is the rendering of the Greek Evangelion , I.e., "good message." It denotes (1) "the welcome intelligence of salvation to man as preached by our Lord and his followers.
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 (the evangelion).
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).
The central fact of Christian preaching was the intelligence that the Saviour had come into the world (Matthew 4:23; Romans 10:15); and the first Christian preachers who called their account of the person and mission of Christ by the term Evangelion_ (= good message) were called _evangelistai (= Evangelists) (Ephesians 4:11; Acts 21:8).
There are four historical accounts of the person and work of Christ: "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 represents Christ in the special character of the Saviour of sinners (Luke 7:36; 15:18); the fourth by John, who represents Christ as the Son of God, in whom deity and humanity become one. The ancient Church gave to Matthew the symbol of the lion, to Mark that of a man, to Luke that of the ox, and to John that of the eagle: these were the four faces of the cherubim" (Ezekiel 1:10).
Date. The Gospels were all composed during the latter part of the first century, and there is distinct historical evidence to show that they were used and accepted as authentic before the end of the second century.
Mutual relation. "If the extent of all the coincidences be represented by 100, their proportionate distribution will be: Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 53; Matthew and Luke, 21; Matthew and Mark, 20; Mark and Luke, 6. Looking only at the general result, it may be said that of the contents of the synoptic Gospels [i.e., the first three Gospels] about two-fifths are common to the three, and that the parts peculiar to one or other of them are little more than one-third of the whole."
Origin. Did the evangelists copy from one another? The opinion is well founded that the Gospels were published by the apostles orally before they were committed to writing, and that each had an independent origin. (See MATTHEW, GOSPEL OF .)
The name Gospel (from god and spell, Ang. Sax. good message or news , which is a translation of the Greek euaggelion ) is applied to the four inspired histories of the life and teaching of Christ contained in the New Testament, of which separate accounts are given in their place. They were all composed during the latter half of the first century: those of St. Matthew and St. Mark some years before the destruction of Jerusalem; that of St. Luke probably about A.D. 64; and that of St. 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. As a matter of literary history, nothing can be better established than the genuineness of the Gospels. On comparing these four books one with another, a peculiar difficulty claims attention, which has had much to do with the controversy as to their genuineness. In the fourth Gospel the narrative coincided with that of the other three in a few passages only. The received explanation is the only satisfactory one namely, 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 to Mark and 9 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. It has been ascertained by Stroud that "if the total contents of the several Gospels be represented by 100, the following table is obtained: Matthew has 42 peculiarities and 58 coincidences. Mark has 7 peculiarities and 93 coincidences. Luke has 59 peculiarities and 41 coincidences. John has 92 peculiarities and 8 coincidences.
Why four Gospels. --
1. To bring four separate independent witnesses to the truth.
2. It is to give the Lordís life from every point of view, four living portraits of one person.
There were four Gospels because Jesus was to be commended to four races or classes of men, or to four phases of human thought, -- the Jewish, Roman, Greek and Christian. Had not these exhausted the classes to be reached, there would doubtless have been more Gospels. In all ages, the Jewish, Roman and Greek natures reappear among men, and, in fact, make up the world of natural men, while the Christian nature and wants likewise remain essentially the same.
The FIRST GOSPEL was prepared by Matthew for the Jew. He gives us the Gospel of Jesus, the Messiah of the Jews, the Messianic royalty of Jesus. He places the life and character of Jesus, as lived on earth, alongside the life and character of the Messiah, as sketched in the prophets, showing Christianity as the fulfillment of Judaism.
Mark wrote the SECOND GOSPEL. It was substantially the preaching of Peter to the Romans. The Gospel for him must represent the character and career of Jesus from the Roman point of view, as answering to the idea of divine power, work, law, conquest and universal sway; must retain its old significance and ever-potent inspiration at the battle-call of the almighty Conqueror.
Luke wrote the THIRD GOSPEL in Greece for the Greek. It has its basis in the gospel which Paul and Luke, by long preaching to the Greeks, had already thrown into the form best suited to commend to their acceptance Jesus as the perfect divine man. 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.
--Condensed from, Prof. Gregory.
gos'-pel (to euaggelion):
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; 15:5) and is also indicated in Acts 10:43 and in the argument in Ro 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 2:2,9; 1 Timothy 1:11. In others it is called "the gospel of Christ" (Mark 1:1; Romans 1:16; 15:19; 1 Corinthians 9:12,18; 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; 11:5; Mark 1:14; Luke 4:18 margin), by the apostles (Acts 16:10; Romans 1:15; 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.
David H. Bauslin