Barry Newman's Blog

June 22, 2012

The Gospel and its Proclamation (part XII)

Filed under: Proclaiming the gospel,The Gospel — barrynewman @ 10:48 pm

“Euaggelizomai” in the Greek literature external to the New Testament

Using the TLG program I located 55 instances of “euaggelizomai in the Greek literature external to the New Testament up until about the beginning of the 2nd century AD.  17 were in the indicative mood, 3 were in the imperative mood and there was 1 example where the optative mood was involved. 11 were infinitives and 23 were participles.  All participles referred to the person, persons or means by which the “good news was proclaimed”. As for voice, 5 were passive with 50 judged to be of middle voice, while recognising that in many cases, middle and passive voices cannot be distinguished using form alone.  Additionally, there were 2 instances where the active verb, “euaggelizo” was found.  1 occurred as an infinitive, the other as a participle. The sources for both “euaggelizomai” and “euaggelizo” were: the Septuagint (20), Flavius Josephus (13), Philo Judaeus (12), Plutarch (3), Menader (2) and Aristophanes, Demosthenes, Lycurgus of Athens, Theophrastus, Soranus, Vitae Aesopi and Clement of Rome (1 each).  There was no reference to the noun, “euaggelion”, in any of the instances.

In a number of cases, it seems appropriate simply to translate “euaggelizomai” as “announcing” or similar without an explicit reference to “good news”.  Some examples: the announcing that it was the time for reaping a crop, the blossoming of an almond tree indicating that there would be a plentiful supply of fruit, and the declaring to certain Arabs by their women folk that they had so seduced some Hebrews that they had turned from God.

The general rule seems to be that, when what is being announced or conveyed in some way or another is directly and explicitly referred to at that point in the text, a translation that refers simply to “announcing” or similar seems permissible. Conversely, it seems to be that where there is no direct explicit reference to what is being “announced” or conveyed at that place in the text, something like “good news” may need to be referred to. None the less, depending on the actual text, the omission of any reference to “good news” may sometimes seem appropriate even when there is no direct and explicit mention of what is being announced or conveyed at that point in the text.

If something like, “making the announcement” were used in a translation, then supplying “good news” as part of the translation might be considered unnecessary, even if no direct an explicit reference were made to what that announcement was about at that place in the text.  The same would be true if “preaching”, in one grammatical form or another, could have been used as a translation for the verb. However there were no instances in the Greek literature external to the New Testament were, “preaching” in any grammatical form could have been used as an appropriate translation of “euaggelizomai” in any of its forms.

However, in all instances, whether or not there was a direct and explicit reference to what was being announced or conveyed, what was being announced or conveyed was “good news”, at least from someone’s point of view. Consequently, however the text is translated the underlying sense is that of announcing or conveying in one way or another, “good news”.

Some further examples: husbands eager to send good news to their wives, longing for and expecting them; a person stating he did not exult in the good fortune of foreigners telling glad tidings to anyone, the advice being given that good news being delivered should be carried swiftly, bad news, slowly, the Philistines sending good news to their idols and to their people, the good news that Gaius had made a complete recovery being announced by travellers as they arrived in a city, Joshua announcing the good news of the impending capture of the city, a person bringing good news that a person’s asses are safe. A deserter bringing good news to Vespasian concerning the disposition of a general’s troops. In the first four instances, there being no direct explicit reference to what was being spoken of, the translation probably needs to make a reference to “good news” or something similar, given the actual verbs being used.  In the other examples given, it might be judged that a simple reference to “announcing”, “declaring” or similar is sufficient.  Sometimes the news is of such a nature that one must be careful not to give too grand a sense to the announcing, by using a word such as, “proclaiming’ or even the word “announcing” itself.

For some additional and confirmatory material see, Hauck, F.[1] He provides an extensive survey of the usage of the verb (and related forms) and its meaning both in Biblical and non-Biblical material.

Though not explicitly referred to in Hauck’s work, the verb may have sometimes carried with it the sense of a messenger delivering his news with considerable flourish or gravitas.  The “good” aspect of his delivery was the considerable style in which the announcement was made. If my memory is correct, some years ago D. Robinson argued for something along these lines.  This would give weight to the idea that sometimes, the verb could simply be translated using “announcing”, “declaring”, “proclaiming” or similar, with the understanding that this was done with flourish, gravitas, grandeur or even exuberance.

[1] Hauck, F. , “euaggelizomai, euaggelion, proeuaggelizomai, euaggelistes” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, volume II, (trans. Bromiley, G.W.), Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 1964, 707-737



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