Meaning of the Concept “Goodnews”
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Evangelion (ευαγγέλιοv) is a Greek word which means Gospel, or an act of proclaiming the good news. When we speak of Gospel, we mean the four Gospel, which include: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Gospel talks about ancient Christian kerygma which was formally existed as an oral tradition but with time was written down in text. It is this ancient tradition that is at the foundation of the term evangelion (Gospel) that this essay tends to address. Moreover, our aim in this paper will be to trace the meaning and history of the term Evangelion from the ancient Greek culture to its usage in the New Testament. As a way of methodology, we shall define Evangelion, its usage in Old and New Testaments and then proceed to conclude this paper. It will be worthy to note that since evangelion means Gospel or good news, they will be used interchangeably. 2.0 THE MEANING OF THE TERM “EVANGELION”
Evangelion (ευαγγέλιοv) is a Greek word which means Gospel or joyful news; it also means “Reward for bringing good news” or even the good news itself: as when David killed the giant Goliath, it became glad tidings to the Jews; moved by this good news, they sang, danced and were joyful (see 1 Sam. 17). Evangelion acquires religious significance in the imperial cult where emperors were deified and worshiped; in this case it refers to the birth of the emperor which is announced as good tidings. In the earliest days of Christianity, Christians used the term Evagelion to refer to the proclamation of the good news about Christ, which is similar to the Old Testament’s content in Isaiah 52: 7, “How beautiful is the feet of messengers who brings good news about salvation”. Evagelion is often used in the sense of “Bringing news of victory”, especially a message that comes from battle field and declares victory over enemies. The messenger of such message is regarded as bearer of good tidings (2 Samuel 4:10). Elsewhere in the New Testament, especially to Paul, “Gospel” means the proclamation concerning Christ and the redemption which has come in him: Rom. 1:1, 1 Cor. 15:1. Similarly, in the New Testament, evangelion is the living word of preaching, corresponding to “Evangelist” as the designation for itinerant preachers: Acts 21:8, Eph. 4:11; II Tim. 4:5. 3.0 EVANGELION WITH THE GREEKS
Among the Greeks, the term evangelion (ευαγγέλιοv) is used for the proclamation of news of victory. It is also used in the Greco-Roman world in the plural τα ευαγγελια with reference to stark offering for good tidings or the one who brings good tidings. It finds its way to Hellenistic text related to the imperial cult where the birth of an emperor was seen as a good news. Ευαγγέλιοv can be a sacral messenger, one who declares an oracle, this is used in the sense of “To promise.” This usage is only found in the Hellenistic period and mostly in the works of Neo-Pythagorean influence. Evangelion for the ancient Greeks mean news of victory, news of approaching feasts, wedding or of the death of someone we do not like, gladness of the birth of a son. In time of war false stories of victory could be told to boost morale of tired soldiers. 4.0 EVANGELION IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Evangelion in the Old Testament has general sense of “Proclaiming good news” (1 Kings 1:42), for instance, the birth of a son (Jer. 20:15). Among the Greeks, the term is used for the proclamation of news of victory which comes from the battle field. It could be used to announce the death or capture of an enemy. Evangelion may also be used for political or private communications which brings joy. Others are gladdened by the birth of a son, by news of an approaching wedding or even by the death of someone. It could be seen as a message from the battle field; bringing news of victory or declaring victory over enemies or even the death of an opponent. This declaration has a solemn character. It is a cultic act; Psalm 68:11 could be seen in the same regard. Nonetheless, transition from secular to a religious use of the term evangelion may be seen in Isaiah 52:7 and 61:1 respectively. In Isaiah 61:1 the prophet is the one who brings good tidings; he is sent to proclaim the good news to the poor, and the effect of the proclamation is their liberation. Luke reproduced this passage in chapter 4:16-19 of his gospel (The manifesto of Jesus). From Luke’s declaration, evangelion which is Gospel is the testimony about the events of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in which God intervened in a decisive manner in human history—bringing salvation to all irrespective of age, culture, religion, race.
Salvation with Jesus’ coming was no longer limited to Jews as they have conceived it. This salvation comes with the word of proclamation. By the fact that he declares the restoration of Israel, the new creation of the world, the inauguration of eschatological age, he brings them to pass. For the word is not just mere breath and sound; it has effective power. Yahweh puts his words on his messengers lips and speaks through them. In the same vein, surveying the Old Testament use of evangelion, we find many points of contact with the New Testament. In the New Testament Jesus Himself is the evangelion (Good news), He himself is the content of His message. The very fact of using the good news (Gospel) in the New Testament depicts that God has visited his people in a new way, for He has come to bring us salvation. St. Paul will echo this in his writing when he said that “there is one gospel and no other—one message of salvation brought by Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:7). 5.0 EVANGELION IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
In the New Testament, evangelion (Gospel) has the special meaning of “Message of salvation.” It is derived from the verb εύαγγελίζεσϑαι, in Hebrew bissar, “to announce the news of salvation,” this understanding reflects in Churches teaching, according to the Church, the literary character of the Gospel is expressed in the first four books of the New Testament Canon (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). In this canonical gospel, the public mysteries of Jesus, his paschal mysteries were all presented, for example in Mark 1. In the history of Christian writing it is in the Gospel of Mark that the word “Gospel” was first used. The term became the official name for the four canonical gospels. The gospel therefore, refers to the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one who brings the good news of the expected last time. His whole life was proclamation of the Gospel. Hence his birth is an ευαγγέλιοv, (Luke 2:10). The coming of Jesus to earth, His life and death, were the great message of peace, the great proclamation of good news of salvation.
Similarly, the dynamic content of the gospel of Jesus Christ as proclaimed by Paul and other Christian evangelist provided a condition in which the term gospel became a literary designator for the book that contains the story of tradition related to the story of Jesus. In the Pauline letters, ευαγγέλιοv was used to present God’s saving act in Christ. Paul uses the term in an absolute sense. For Paul the gospel is complete, requiring neither embellishment nor qualitative description. In his opinion, there is one message of salvation and one gospel (Cf. Gal. 1:7); which originated with God and was revealed by God. Paul later bore witness to the gospel when he was set apart after his conversion to preach this good news to the Gentiles while Peter preached it to the Jews—hence he is called the Apostle of the Gentiles because he preached the gospel of the uncircumcised (Gal. 2:7). 6.0 CONCLUSION
So far, we have been able to discuss the origin of the term evangelion, its meaning and its usage in the Greek setting, and in the Old and the New Testament. As we pointed out in our above discussion; “Evangelion” is not new to us for it has existed in the Greco-Roman world as an oral tradition before it was put to writing. The word evangelion finds its way also in Old and New Testament writings, where it is used as “Good tidings; reward of those who bring good news, even good news itself; and Gospel.” This meaning of evangelion is clearly illustrated in the person of Christ, His suffering, death and resurrection bore witness to the good news of salvation. Jesus is the one who brings the good news; his whole life was proclamation of the gospel (Good news). In other to make his mission known he says: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, he has sent me to bring ‘Good news’ to the poor.., to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour (Is.61:1-2).” This Good news that Jesus proclaimed is still among us today but many have failed to embrace it; it is this good news that our world needs today.