Gospel

Gospel

[gos-puhl]
Gospel [M.E.,=good news; evangel from Gr.,= good news], a written account of the life of Jesus. Though the Gospels of the New Testament are all anonymous, since the 2d cent. they have been named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The first three are called Synoptic Gospels because they agree in much of their subject matter, wording, and narrative order and so appear to be written from a common vantage point. Some Pseudepigrapha—e.g., the Gospel of Thomas—partly resemble the canonical Gospels. The solemn reading of the day's Gospel is a special feature of the liturgy in many churches. Formerly the Gospel (i.e., a book of the Gospels) was used instead of the Bible for the oath in courts in Christian countries. This sort of honor paid to the book resulted in some outstanding examples of illumination—e.g., the Lindisfarne Gospels (see Holy Island) and the Book of Kells (see under Ceanannus Mór). Sometimes the term "gospel" is used in a broader sense to indicate the Christian message of salvation.

See J. B. Green, How to Read the Gospels and Acts (1987); R. Price, Three Gospels (1996).

Form of black American music derived from Pentecostal church worship services and from spiritual and blues singing. Recordings of Pentecostal preachers' sermons were immensely popular among African Americans in the 1920s. Taking the scriptural direction “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord” (Psalm 150), Pentecostal churches welcomed timbrels, pianos, banjos, guitars, other stringed instruments, and even brass into their services. Choirs often featured the extremes of female vocal range in antiphonal counterpoint with the preacher's sermon. Other forms of gospel music have included the singing and acoustic guitar playing of itinerant street preachers; individual secular performers; and harmonizing male quartets, whose acts included dance routines and stylized costumes. Gospel music's principal composers and practitioners included Thomas A. Dorsey, who coined the term; the Rev. C.A. Tindley (1851–1933); the blind wandering preacher Rev. Gary Davis (1896–1972); Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915–73), whose performances took gospel into nightclubs and theatres in the 1930s; and Mahalia Jackson. Gospel music was a significant influence on rhythm and blues and soul music, which have in turn strongly influenced contemporary gospel music.

Learn more about gospel music with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Religious social-reform movement in the U.S., prominent from circa 1870 to 1920 among liberal Protestant groups. The movement focused on applying moral principles to the improvement of industrialized society and particularly to reforms such as the abolition of child labour, a shorter workweek, and factory regulation. Many of its aims were realized through the rise of organized labour and through legislation of the New Deal.

Learn more about Social Gospel with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Any of the four New Testament books narrating the life and death of Jesus. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are placed at the beginning of the New Testament and make up about half its total text. Since the 18th century, the first three have been called the Synoptic Gospels, because they give similar accounts of the ministry of Jesus. The term is also applied to apocryphal works of the 2nd century (e.g., The Gospel of Thomas).

Learn more about Gospel with a free trial on Britannica.com.

This article is about the canonical books of the New Testament. See Evangelium for the "good news" in Christian belief.
In Christianity, a gospel (from Old English, "good news") is generally one of four canonical books of the New Testament that describe the birth, life, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus, but also encompasses numerous non-canonical texts, see list of gospels.

The four canonical texts are the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, probably written between 65 and 100 AD. More generally, the term refers to works of a genre of Early Christian literature. It originally meant the "good news" (evangelium) of redemption.

The first canonical gospel written is Mark (c 65-70), which in turn was used as a source for the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Matthew and Luke may have also used a common source, the hypothetical Q document. These first three gospels are called the synoptic gospels because they share a similar view. The last gospel, the gospel of John, presents a very different picture of Jesus and his ministry from the synoptics. The canonical gospels were originally written in Greek.

The synoptic gospels are the source of many popular stories, parables, and sermons, such as Jesus' humble birth in Bethlehem, the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, the Last Supper, and the Great Commission. John provides a theological description of Jesus as the eternal Word, the unique savior of humanity. All four attest to his Sonship, miraculous power, crucifixion, and resurrection.

Other gospels circulated in early Christianity. Some, such as the Gospel of Thomas, lack the narrative framework typical of a gospel. These gospels are later than the canonical gospels, though in the case of Thomas, scholarship is divided on the exact date.

Etymology

The word gospel derives from the Old English god-spell (rarely godspel), meaning "good tidings" or "good news". It is a calque (word-for-word translation) of the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον, euangelion (eu- "good", -angelion "message"). The Greek word "euangelion" is also the source of the term "evangelist" in English. The authors of the four canonical Christian gospels are known as the four evangelists.

Before the first gospel was written (Mark, c 65-70), Paul the Apostle used the term εὐαγγέλιον "gospel" when he reminded the people of the church at Corinth "of the gospel I preached to you" (1 Corinthians 15.1). Paul averred that they were being saved by the gospel, and he characterized it in the simplest terms, emphasizing Christ's appearances after the Resurrection (15.3 – 8):

The earliest extant use of εὐαγγέλιον "gospel" to denote a particular genre of writing dates to the 2nd century. Justin Martyr (c. 155) in 1 Apology 66 wrote: "...the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels".

Henry Barclay Swete's Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, pages 456- 457 states:

Εὐαγγέλιον in the LXX occurs only in the plural, and perhaps only in the classical sense of 'a reward for good tidings' ([also , , , ]); in the N.T. it is from the first appropriated to the Messianic good tidings probably deriving this new meaning from the use of εὐαγγελίζεσθαι in , , , .

In the New Testament, evangelion meant the proclamation of God's saving activity in Jesus of Nazareth, or the agape message proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth. This is the original New Testament usage (for example or ; see also Strong's G2098). The peculiar situation in the English language of an obsolete translation persisting into current usage harks back to John Wycliffe who already had gospel, and whose usage was adopted into the King James Version. The short o in the modern word gospel is due to mistaken association with the word god. Old English gōd-spell had a long vowel and would have become good-spell in Modern English.

Canonical Gospels

Of the many gospels written in antiquity, only four gospels came to be accepted as part of the New Testament, or canonical. An insistence upon there being a canon of canonical four, and no others, was a central theme of Irenaeus of Lyons, c. 185. In his central work, Adversus Haereses Irenaeus denounced various early Christian groups that used only one gospel, such as Marcionism which used only Marcion's version of Luke, or the Ebionites which seem to have used an Aramaic version of Matthew as well as groups that embraced the texts of newer revelations, such as the Valentinians (A.H. 1.11). Irenaeus declared that the four he espoused were the four Pillars of the Church: "it is not possible that there can be either more or fewer than four" he stated, presenting as logic the analogy of the four corners of the earth and the four winds (3.11.8). His image, taken from Ezekiel 1, or Revelation 4:6-10, of God's throne borne by four creatures with four faces—"the four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and the four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle"—equivalent to the "four-formed" gospel, is the origin of the conventional symbols of the Evangelists: lion, bull, eagle, man. Irenaeus was ultimately successful in declaring that the four gospels collectively, and exclusively these four, contained the truth. By reading each gospel in light of the others, Irenaeus made of John a lens through which to read Matthew, Mark and Luke.

By the turn of the 5th century, the Catholic Church in the west, under Pope Innocent I, recognized a biblical canon including the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which was previously established at a number of regional Synods, namely the Council of Rome (382), the Synod of Hippo (393), and two Synods of Carthage (397 and 419). This canon, which corresponds to the modern Catholic canon, was used in the Vulgate, an early 5th century translation of the Bible made by Jerome under the commission of Pope Damasus I in 382.

Medieval copies of the four canonical gospels are known as Gospel Books or also simply as Gospels (in Greek as Tetraevangelia). Notable examples include the Lindisfarne Gospels (ca. 700), the Barberini Gospels, Lichfield Gospels and the Vienna Coronation Gospels (8th century), the Book of Kells and the Ada Gospels (ca. 800) or the Ebbo Gospels (9th century).

Origin of the canonical Gospels

The dominant view today is that Mark is the first Gospel, with Matthew and Luke borrowing passages both from that Gospel and from at least one other common source, lost to history, termed by scholars 'Q' (from German: Quelle, meaning "source"). This view is known as the "Two-Source Hypothesis". John was written last and shares little with the synoptic gospels.

The general consensus among biblical scholars is that all four canonical Gospels were originally written in Greek, the lingua franca of the Roman Orient.

Dating

Estimates for the dates when the canonical Gospel accounts were written vary significantly; and the evidence for any of the dates is scanty. Because the earliest surviving complete copies of the Gospels date to the 4th century and because only fragments and quotations exist before that, scholars use higher criticism to propose likely ranges of dates for the original gospel autographs. Scholars variously assess the consensus or majority view as follows:

  • Mark: c. 68–73, c 65-70
  • Matthew: c. 70–100. c 80-85. Some conservative scholars argue for a pre-70 date, particularly those that do not accept Mark as the first gospel written.
  • Luke: c. 80–100, with most arguing for somewhere around 85,, c 80-85
  • John: c 90-100, c. 90–110, The majority view is that it was written in stages, so there was no one date of composition.

Traditional Christian scholarship has generally preferred to assign earlier dates. Some historians interpret the end of the book of Acts as indicative, or at least suggestive, of its date; as Acts does not mention the death of Paul, generally accepted as the author of many of the Epistles, who was later put to death by the Romans c. 65. Acts is attributed to the author of the Gospel of Luke, and therefore would shift the chronology of authorship back, putting Mark as early as the mid 50s. Here are the dates given in the modern NIV Study Bible (for a fuller discussion see Augustinian hypothesis):

  • Mark: c. 50s to early 60s, or late 60s
  • Matthew: c. 50 to 70s
  • Luke: c. 59 to 63, or 70s to 80s
  • John: c. 85 to near 100, or 50s to 70

Location

Matthew was probably written in Syria, perhaps in Antioch, an ancient Christian center. Mark has traditionally been associated with Peter's preaching in Rome, and it is well-suited to a Roman audience. Various cities have been proposed for the origin of Luke, but there is no consensus on the matter. Ephesus is a popular scholarly choice for the place of origin for the Gospel of John.

Content of the Gospels

The four gospels present different narratives, reflecting different intents on the parts of their authors.

All four gospels portray Jesus as leading a group of disciples, performing miracles, preaching in Jerusalem, being crucified, and rising from the dead.

The synoptic gospels represent Jesus as an exorcist and healer who preached in parables about the coming Kingdom of God. He preached first in Galilee and later in Jerusalem, where he cleansed the temple. He states that he offers no sign as proof (Mark) or only the sign of Jonah (Matthew and Luke). In Mark, apparently written with a Roman audience in mind, Jesus is a heroic man of action, given to powerful emotions, including agony. In Matthew, apparently written for a Jewish audience, Jesus is repeatedly called out as the fulfillment of Hebrew prophecy. In Luke, apparently written for gentiles, Jesus is especially concerned with the poor. Luke emphasizes the importance of prayer and the action of the Holy Spirit in Jesus' life and in the Christian community. He appears as a stoic supernatural being, unmoved even by his own crucifixion. Luke insists that salvation offered by Christ is for all, and not the Jews only.

The Gospel of John represents Jesus as an incarnation of the eternal Word (Logos), who spoke no parables, talked extensively about himself, and did not explicitly refer to a Second Coming. Jesus preaches in Jerusalem, launching his ministry with the cleansing of the temple. He performs several miracles as signs, most of them not found in the synoptics.

Non-canonical gospels

In addition to the four canonical gospels there have been other gospels that were not accepted into the canon. Generally these were not accepted due to doubt over the authorship, the time frame between the original writing and the events described, or content that was at odds with orthodoxy. For example, if a gospel claimed to be written by James, yet was authored in the second century, clearly authorship was not authentic. This differs from the four canonical gospels which historians agree were authored before 100. For this reason, most of these non-canonical texts were only ever accepted by small portions of the early Christian community. Some of the content of these non-canonical gospels (as much as it deviates from accepted theological norms) is considered heretical by the leadership of mainstream churches, including the Vatican.

Two non-canonical gospels that are considered to be among the earliest in composition are the sayings Gospel of Thomas and the narrative Gospel of Peter. The dating of the Gospel of Thomas is particularly controversial, as a minority of scholars date it to before the writing of the canonical gospels. Like the canonical gospels, scholars have to rely on Higher criticism, not extant manuscripts, in order to roughly date Thomas.

A genre of "Infancy gospels" (Greek: protoevangelion) arose in the 2nd century, such as the Gospel of James, which introduces the concept of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (not to be confused with the absolutely different sayings Gospel of Thomas), both of which related many miraculous incidents from the life of Mary and the childhood of Jesus that are not included in the canonical gospels, but which have passed into Christian lore.

Another genre that has been suppressed is that of Gospel harmonies, in which the apparent discrepancies in the canonical four gospels were selectively recast to present a harmoniously consistent narrative text. Very few fragments of harmonies survived. The Diatessaron was such a harmonization, compiled by Tatian around 175. It was popular for at least two centuries in Syria, but eventually it fell into disuse.

Marcion of Sinope, c. 150, had a version of the Gospel of Luke which differed substantially from that which has now become the standard text. Marcion's version was far less Jewish than the now canonical text, and his critics alleged that he had edited out the portions he didn't like from the canonical version, though Marcion argued that his text was the more genuinely original one. Marcion also rejected all the other gospels, including Matthew, Mark and especially John, which he alleged had been forged by Irenaeus.

The Gospel of Judas is another controversial and ancient text that purports to tell the story of the gospel from the perspective of Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus. It paints an unusual picture of the relationship between Jesus and Judas. The text was recovered from a cave in Egypt by a thief and thereafter sold on the black market until it was finally discovered by a collector who, with the help of academics from Yale and Princeton, were able to verify its authenticity. The document itself does not claim to have been authored by Judas (it is, rather, a Gospel about Judas), and dates no earlier than the second century.

See also

References

External links

Search another word or see Gospelon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature
FAVORITES
RECENT

;