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(OE godspel, “good tidings”; Gr. euangelion, “good news”). The message of God's redemption in Jesus Christ, which lies at the heart of the NT and the church's faith. In the NT it is, first, the proclamation by Jesus that the kingdom has drawn near and, then, the proclamation by His disciples that in His life, death, and resurrection the kingdom has been established and that salvation and forgiveness are offered to all who believe. At a later date the term came to be used of those early Christian writings which tell the story of that unique manifestation of the “good news” in the person and work of Jesus Christ (cf., Justin Martyr, First Apology 66.3; Clement of Alexandria, Stromata iii.13). Strictly speaking, there is only one Gospel: the four writings called “gospels” are really only variations on a single theme. It would be more accurate to speak of the “fourfold gospel” (Irenaeus) than of the “four gospels”: the gospel according to Matthew . . . Mark . . . Luke . . . John.

The background of the use of the noun euangelion and the related verb euangelizomai in the NT is the Greek translation of the second part of the prophecy of Isaiah (40:9; 52:7; 60:6; 61:1), which is quoted or alluded to many times in the NT (e.g., Mark 1:3; Rom. 10:15; Luke 4:17-21; Matt. 11:5/Luke 7:22).

In Lutheran theology the term is used to represent the NT revelation as contrasted with “law” (the old dispensation).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

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 (Mr 1:1), embracing all His teachings, as in Ac 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 (Ro 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’ (Ge 3:15), and the promise concerning Abraham, in whom all the nations should be blessed (Ge 12:3; 15:5) and is also indicated in Ac 10:43 and in the argument in Ro 4.

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.

Additional Material


Vocabulary and background

In the NT εὐαγγελίζεσθαι means “to announce good news,” and εὐαγγέλιον, G2295, signifies “good news,” “gospel,” while εὐαγγελιστής, G2296, is a “preacher of the gospel,” “evangelist.” The substantive εὐαγγέλιον, G2295, appears most frequently in the writings of Paul (some sixty times).

Jewish background.

Greek background.

Among the Greeks εὐαγγελίζεσθαι was used often in the context of announcing a victory and εὐαγγέλιον, G2295, means both “good news” and “reward for good news.” Εὐαγγέλιον, in sing. and pl. also was used in the Rom. imperial cult to signify the “glad messages” of the birth of a future emperor, of his coming of age and of his accession to the throne. This aspect of the imperial worship is traced generally to Eastern influence, and it is not held that the NT message has been derived from the Rom. cult, but we can see that men would already associate a religious content with εὐαγγέλιον, G2295, before the advent of Christian preachers.

The message of Jesus

The kingdom of God.

The invitation to the needy.

The responsibility of the hearers.

The privilege of believers.

The message of the apostles

It will be convenient to consider the apostolic Gospel message under the two well-known classifications, missionary preaching (kērygma) and Christian teaching (didachē), although it must not be supposed that these two aspects of the message were always rigidly separated.

Missionary preaching.

In his Gospel preaching to pagans (Acts 14:15-17; 17:22-31) Paul seeks to present the Christian message in the way most appropriate to his hearers’ circumstances and cultural background. The same is true of the missionary sermons made to Jews and God-fearers in Acts, but it often has been noted that in these addresses one finds the frequent occurrence of certain definite themes. The question of a stereotyped kerygmatic pattern has been much discussed, but space forbids a detailed treatment here. Reference may be made to the works listed in the Bibliography. Among scholars who support some form of stereotyped kerygma are: Grosheide, Dibelius, Dodd, Hatch, Hunter, Leijs, Glasson, Craig, Gärtner, Bartels, Ward, Russell. These writers often differ widely from one another in their analyses, but the work of C. H. Dodd has had great influence upon English-speaking scholars. T. F. Glasson has modified Dodd’s analysis to list the essential kerygmatic elements as: (1) the resurrection, (2) the fulfillment of OT prophecy, (3) the death of Christ, (4) the offer of forgiveness, (5) the apostles as witnesses. Among scholars who would reject, wholly or partially, a rigid kerygmatic pattern are: Evans, Filson, Baird, Wood, Mounce, Sweet. F. V. Filson analyzes the kerygma, but maintains, as do H. G. Wood and R. H. Mounce, that kerygma and didaché frequently were intermingled in Christian preaching, while C. F. Evans, followed by J. P. M. Sweet, prefers to think of many differing kerygmata rather than of the kerygma. In the present article it is assumed that by his presentation of frequently repeated themes in the Acts sermons Luke wished his readers to understand that these were the characteristic emphases of apostolic missionary preaching. It also is assumed that the essential kerygma consists of the elements which are most commonly preached, for it appears to be a sound method to follow Glasson’s principle of including only the items that are most frequently mentioned, rather than to form a synthesis by utilizing each different particular which may be discovered.

Man’s concentration upon particular emphases of the missionary Gospel must not blind one to the fact which we have noticed at the beginning of this section, that the one central theme, dominating and unifying all the secondary themes, is Christ Himself. The Gospel is the Gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor 4:4).

Christian teaching

The privilege of believers.

The responsibility of believers.


The message of Jesus is ultimately an invitation to men to commit themselves wholeheartedly to Him, and to experience fully the relationship with the Father which is insured by that discipleship. The message of the apostles is the same, but has now been filled out, from a deepening Christian experience, with the proclamation of all the saving activity of God revealed in the total ministry of Christ, who is the climax of all God’s purposes (cf. 2 Cor 1:20).


F. W. Grosheide, “The Synoptic Problem. A Neglected Factor in Its Solution,” EQ, III (1931), 62-66; C. H. Dodd, “The Framework of the Gospel Narrative,” ExpT, XLIII no. 9 (1932), 396 ff.; M. Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel, Eng. tr. (1934), 15-30; C. H. Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments (1936); W. H. P. Hatch, “The Primitive Christian Message,” JBL, LVIII (1939), 1-13; A. M. Hunter, The Unity of the New Testament (1943), 23-25; F. F. Bruce, The Speeches in the Acts (1945); R. Leijs, “Prédication des Apôtres,” Nouvelle Revue théologique, LXIX (1947), 606ff.; A. Rétif, “Qu’estce que le kérygme?,” Nouvelle Revue théologique, LXXI (1949), 910-922; A. Rétif, “Témoignage et prédication missionnaire dans les Actes des Apôtres,” Nouvelle Revue théologique, LXXIII (1951), 152-165; R. H. Strachan, “The Gospel in the New Testament,” IB, VII (1951), 3-31; C. T. Craig, “The Apostolic Kerygma in the Christian Message,” JBR, XX (1952), 182-186; T. F. Glasson, “The Kerygma: Is Our Version Correct?,” HJ, LI (1952-1953), 129-132; B. Reicke, “A Synopsis of Early Christian Preaching,” The Root of the Vine. Essays in Biblical Theology, ed. A. Fridrichsen (1953), 128-160; B. Gärtner, The Areopagus Speech and Natural Revelation (1955), 30-32; M. Dibelius, Studies in the Acts of the Apostles, Eng. tr. (1956), 165ff., 178; C. F. Evans, “The Kerygma,” JTS, n. s. VII (1956), 25-41; F. V. Filson, Jesus Christ the Risen Lord (1956), 41-54; W. Baird, “What is the Kerygma?,” JBL, LXXVI (1957), 181-191; R. Russell, “Modern Exegesis and the Fact of the Resurrection,” Downside Review, LXXVI (1958), 329-343; W. Barclay, “Great Themes of the New Testament,” ExpT, LXX no. 7 (1959), 196-199; W. E. Ward, “Preaching and the Word of God in the New Testament,” Baptist Review and Expositor, LVI (1959), 20-30; H. G. Wood, “Didaché, Kerygma and Evangelion,” New Testament Essays. Studies in Memory of T. W. Manson, ed. A. J. B. Higgins (1959), 306-314; R. H. Mounce, The Essential Nature of New Testament Preaching (1960); R. A. Bartels, Kerygma or Gospel Tradition—Which came first? (1961), 97-112; B. Gerhardsson, Memory and Manuscript (1961), 234, 274-280; H. N. Ridderbos, The Speeches of Peter in the Acts of the Apostles (1962); M. Smith, “A Comparison of Early Christian and Early Rabbinic Tradition,” JBL, LXXXII (1963), 169-176; B. Gerhardsson, Tradition and Transmission (1964), 42f.; K. L. Schmidt, βασιλεύς κτλ, TDNT, I (1964), 576-590; G. Friedrich, εὐαγγελίζομαι, εὐαγγέλιον, TDNT, II, (1964), 707-736; J. P. M. Sweet, “The Kerygma,” ExpT, LXXVI no. 5 (1965), 143-147.