Barry Newman's Blog

June 20, 2012

The Gospel and its Proclamation (part XI)

Filed under: Uncategorized — barrynewman @ 11:02 pm

The grammatical form

As referred to above, “euaggelion” is neuter in gender. Of the 34 instances found outside of the New Testament, 25 were plural in form – “euaggelia” (20), “euaggelion” (4), and “euaggeliois” (1) with all 9 that were singular in form being “euaggelion”.  The plural forms dealt with singular entities in almost all if not all instances.

Of the 75 instances occurring in the New Testament, all were singular in form: “euaggelion” (39), “euaggeliou” (26) and “euaggelio(i)” (10)

The use of the plural in neuter forms to describe a single identity is not uncommon.  The use of the singular exclusively in the New Testament is however deserving of some comment.  Perhaps an explanation of, or an understanding of the phenomenon, can be found in what follows.

The use of the definite article

In the New Testament all but four of the 34 instances were accompanied by the definite article. In two of the 34 occurrences the definite article was accompanied by “touto” providing the meaning of “this” – the demonstrative adjective.  In the Greek literature external to the New Testament there were only three instances of the use of the definite article and it was with “euaggelion” in the singular.  It may be thought that there could be a general situation that when “euaggelion” is in the singular it is accompanied by the definite article.  However in the Greek literature external to the New Testament, the definite article only accompanied the singular form in 3 of the 9 possibilities observed.

Perhaps what should be recognised about the New Testament examples is that the gospel being referred to is the one and only definitive gospel, no matter how varied the terms in which it is expressed.  It is the gospel, spoken of twice as “this gospel”, which comes from God and is about him and his Son.  Of all the “good news” events, ideas, situations and pronouncements in the world, there has been this one and only supremely “good news” announcement from God.

However some comment should be made about the four instances in the New Testament where no definite article appears.  In two of the examples, the actual reference is to “a different gospel” (2 Cor 11: 4; Gal 1: 6).  Although in both instances Paul seems to have particular expressions of a different gospel in mind, his remarks were applicable to any different gospel and were probably so intended. This leaves us with the two “exceptional” instances – found in Rom 1: 1 and Rev 14: 6.

Rom 1: 1 reads, “eis euaggelion Theou”.  There are several examples of “eis to euaggelion tou Christou” and “to euaggelion tou Theou” in the New Testament, so the lack of the definite article in Rom 1: 1 is not to be explained by appealing to other aspects of the construction involving “euaggelion”.  Perhaps, if the real explanation is not a mundane one, it is Paul giving considerable solemnity to the “gospel” of God as he refers to at the very beginning of his lengthy theological and pastoral treatise.

As mentioned above, the passage in Rev 14: 6 concerns an angel who proclaims “an eternal gospel” (euaggelion aionion) to all those who dwell in earth, saying with a loud voice, “ Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come; and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the fountains of water”.  Perhaps the reason why “euaggelion” is not accompanied by the definite article in this case is that unlike other occurrences of “gospel” in the New Testament, in this situation “gospel” refers to this isolated pronouncement.  If that is the case, one should not consider this instance as an example of the usage of “gospel” as “the gospel” as referred to almost entirely throughout the rest of the New Testament.

Finally, though the gospel of the New Testament is “the” gospel, it is not to be thought of as some simple statement concerning a single event.  In its totality it would require a lengthy description concerning a number of weighty matters.  By comparison the “good news” of the Greek literature external to the New Testament is almost always concerned with just one event, situation or activity.

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