Gospel (message)

See also Gospel


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.