Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What is the Gospel?

We are now discussing Paul in my Christian Scriptures class, and with Paul inevitably comes the question of what is the gospel?  Paul uses the word gospel (euangelion) 60 of the 76 times that it is used in the New Testament.  So, what is it?  For Paul, the gospel appears to be wrapped up in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  It is in Christ's death that death is defeated, the effects of Adam's sin are reversed, that the human is justified before God. 

Yet, if all of this is the case, then what does the word mean when used in the gospels?  Specifically, what "euangelion" was Jesus preaching during his lifetime?  For example, look at the following verses from the gospels:
Matt. 9:35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news (euangelion) of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.
Mark 1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news (euangelion) of God.
 Was he preaching of his death and resurrection and how it would nullify the effects of sin?  The context does not seem to support this.  In fact, whenever Jesus does talk about his own death and resurrection, people don't seem to understand.  Instead, it appears as if the gospel preached by Jesus is the coming of the Kingdom of God.  So, this raises another question, what is the Kingdom of God and is it all that different from Paul's Gospel? 

My remarks can only be preliminary, but there seem to be some similarities and differences between the Kingdom of God and Paul's gospel of the defeat of sin and death through the cross of Christ.

In the coming of the Kingdom of God, Jesus exercises authority on behalf of God.  That authority extends to the forgiveness of sins (healing of the paralytic), the natural world (nature miracles), sickness (healings), demons (exorcisms), interpretation of the law (sabbath, sermon on the mount), and even death (raising of the dead).  Of these, it appears the Paul latches on to the themes of sin and death.  Yet, does Paul nullify these other areas of the coming of the Kingdom of God.  I don't think so, instead, he focuses on the exclamation point of the Kingdom of God, namely the ultimate defeat of death and vindication of Jesus as seen in the crucifixion and resurrection.  What unfortunately often happens is that people focus on Paul's gospel, which can be very individualized, and often neglect the Kingdom of God, which is by definition communal.  What say you?

1 comment:

  1. Andrea SifuentesMay 9, 2011 at 1:08 AM

    I wish I had the answers to everything. Sometimes I just sit and think for hours and can never come to a conclusion. This is one of the subjects. There are endless possibilites as to what the Gospel is in my opinion. I think there are so many things in life that are so much bigger than we are and until we grow as a who (all people) we will never be able to understand. It is kind of like technological advances; they couldn't happen until people continued to move on and grow. But the problem is that the answers are so far back that it makes me think that maybe we aren't supposed to understand every detail yet. Maybe we are all supposed to have different opinions instead of definitive answers.

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