What is the gospel?

“The gospel” is another word for the Christian message or the central teaching about God’s work in and through Jesus. In Koine Greek, euangelion (ευαγγελιον) means “good news.” In early Christian communities of the first century, those the apostles started, the gospel was the central message of their faith. Paul summarizes in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 what he understood to be the gospel: Christ died for our sins as the Scriptures said, he was buried and then raised from the dead on the third day, and he was seen by many eyewitnesses including Peter and the other apostles, over 500 of his followers, and also by Paul (in a vision).

In time, Christians came to use the word “gospel” to refer to one of the written works centered on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, probably starting with Mark (see Mark 1:1) and eventually including Matthew, Luke and John. There were other books after these four bearing the name “gospel”, but these have not gained wide acceptance in the ancient, medieval or modern church.

Is a gospel by any other name still the gospel?

There is a third sense in which people use “gospel” today in everyday speech and even outside of faith circles. If something is “gospel”, it’s a true word that you can count on, like when someone raps and says, “That’s gospel!” They mean it’s not a lie, it’s the truth. There are obviously other uses of the word too, such as describing a type of religious music.

Maybe you’ve come across other uses of “gospel” than what I’ve mentioned. What is the point? Is the gospel (message) and gospel (book) really different?


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