Gospel: A Focal Point in the Roman Epistle (1)

Few concepts of Scripture surpass the value of the gospel. This one key word displays God’s authority, wisdom, nature, and, of course, His wondrous love. More inspiring however, is the fact that God shares His gospel with His creation because He is a relational Creator. He wants His creation to know all the good that He is. He has shown His gospel’s true worth both in history and in literature, especially through the events of the Old Testament, extra-biblical literature, and the New Testament.

First, during Old Testament times, the Hebrew term besorah meant “to bring news,” “to bring good news,” or “to tell, or announce” (Koehler 163). Essentially, the word described a person bringing news to another person, and was often used in the positive sense. For example, 1 Kings 1:42 is one of many Old Testament examples in which not only general information is transmitted, but also one in which good news is emphasized (Friedrich, TDNT 707). In Psalm 40:10, the word is used positively in a religious sense rather than a physical sense. In this single verse, the writer talks about faithfulness and salvation, but also observes the opposite in that the Lord’s lovingkindness and truth should not be concealed. A significant parallel to note in both cases, is that a messenger is proclaiming his message to an audience (Friedrich, TDNT 708).

Next, the secular compositions show that much of this original meaning remained in tact as time progressed. For example, the Septuagint, Philo, Josephus, and Palestinian Judaism all maintain the idea of “announcing good news.” Some however, watered down the essence of the divine before suggesting, in addition, that besorah could include not only “salvation” but also “salvation for all men” (Friedrich, Abridged 267-268). These positive qualities would all later be translated into the Greek New Testament text.

Finally, the Greek New Testament equivalent of besorah is, in the noun form, euaggelion (εὐαγγέλιον). In the New American Standard version, there are 76 occurrences in 73 verses. In addition, the verb form euaggelizo (εὐαγγελίζω) occurs 54 times in 52 verses (Logos). The noun form is translated into English as “gospel” every time, and the verb form is translated “preach” almost 90 percent of the time (Logos). Though many Bible authors use both words, the Apostle Paul’s attempt to convey the meaning of the gospel is perhaps best exemplified in his letter to the church in Rome. In 16 chapters, he uses the noun form nine times and uses the verb form four times (Logos) to create his working definition.

Paul’s working definition for gospel is, “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). The word can be translated from three different Greek words, each stemming from the root ‘eu’ meaning “good” or “well” (Strong 33). Such being the case, however, that only two of those words were used within the Roman letter, the following analysis will explore the definitions for that pair only. The chief definition of the first word euaggelion (εὐαγγέλιον) is, “God’s good news to humans, good news as proclamation” (Bauer 402). The verb form euaggelizo (εὐαγγελίζω)–notably the later Greek form of euaggelizomai (εὐαγγελίζομαι)–can be defined either generally, meaning “to bring or announce good news,” or more specifically, meaning “to proclaim the divine message of salvation” (Bauer 402). This background will serve as a foundational platform on top of which further study can be built.

Part Two >


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