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The word gospel derives from the Old English gōd-spell (rarely godspel), meaning "good news" or "glad tidings". 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 (via Latinised evangelium) of the terms "evangelist" and "evangelism" in English. The authors of the four canonical Christian gospels are known as the four evangelists.
Originally, the gospel was the good news of redemption through the propitiatory offering of Jesus Christ for one's sins, the central Christian message. Note: John 3:16. Before the apparition of the first gospel, the gospel of Mark which was probably written around the years 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):
...that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried; and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures; And that he was seen of Cephas; then of the Twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once: of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some have fallen asleep. After that he was seen of James, then of all the apostles. Last of all, he was seen of me also, as one born out of due time.
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' (2 Sam 4:10 ); in the N.T. it is from the first appropriated to the Messianic good tidings (Mark 1:1, 1:14), probably deriving this new meaning from the use of εὐαγγελίζεσθαι in Isaiah 40:9, 52:7, 60:6, 61:1.
In the New Testament, evangelism 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 Mark 1:14–15 or 1 Corinthians 15:1–9; 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.
More generally, gospels compose a genre of early Christian literature. Gospels that did not become canonical also circulated in Early Christianity. Some, such as the work known today as Gospel of Thomas, lack the narrative framework typical of a gospel. These gospels almost certainly appeared much later than the canonical gospels, with the Gospel of Thomas being a likely exception.
Read more about this topic: Gospel
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