Barry Newman's Blog

June 17, 2012

The Gospel and its Proclamation (part X)

Filed under: Proclaiming the gospel,The Gospel — barrynewman @ 10:55 pm

“Euaggelion” – “good news”?

In all instances found in the Greek literature external to the New Testament (including where the female noun was involved), the concept involved was one of “good news”.  Often the good news was with respect to a battle having been won, or an enemy having died.  Sometimes it was in terms of a person being appointed again to a prestige office. By way of some other specific examples, on one occasion it was with respect to having heard that a brother was safe, on another occasion there was a request for a reward for bringing good news, and in another there was a general comment about good news coming in quick succession by letter and messenger. Very commonly, and associated with a military victory, reference was made to offering a good tidings sacrifice.

In the New Testament, the gospel certainly reflects a “good news” character in almost all instances.  The concept of “good news” being present in all known instances outside of the New Testament up until around New Testament times would seem to suggest that one should so understand the gospel in all New Testament examples.  However, the text of Romans 2: 16 and perhaps that of Revelation 14: 6 seem to argue against reaching such a conclusion.  In Romans 2: 16 Paul identifies as one element of the gospel that one day God will judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.  Though there is a focus on the fact that Christ Jesus will be the judge, that judgement will occur, is the ultimate context.  The text in Revelation is also concerned with judgement.  It is not good news for some.   God is about to execute judgement.  Righteousness will be upheld, wickedness will be punished and justice will be the outcome.

Consequently translating “euaggelion” as “good news” or something similar, throughout the New Testament, would seem to be inappropriate particularly when judgment is the context.  However, that may partly be because we are not seeing things from God’s perspective.  Yet even when judgement is the context, “good news” even seen as such from God’s point of view, as a translation, may convey too light hearted an understanding.  A translation referring to “great news”, which can carry with it a sense of solemnity, may sometimes better express the intended meaning. In fact “solemn news” may be an even better rendering in some instances.  Furthermore, the idea of “news” does not automatically carry with it the grandeur that belongs to the “gospel”.  It is not “news” so much as an important announcement, a proclamation from a king, a declaration from a ruler over all.  So while “good news” will continue to be a common translation, we do well to remember the greatness, the grandeur, the wonder and the surpassing goodness of the “gospel” as well as in some respects, its very sober and sombre character.


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