What Does the Word ‘Gospel’ Really Mean?

If there is one sin that church people are guilty of more than any other it is the sin of throwing around obscure and/or “insider” language and simply assuming that everyone else in the world knows what it means. “Place your tithe in the alms basins located in the narthex,” is not an uncommon construction. Shoot, even simple and highly important words like “sin” or “grace” are not widely understood by even every member of the congregation, much less our friends on social media.

Maybe one of the things we can do together in this blog will be to shed some light into some of these obscure places.

Let’s start with a big one, shall we? What does “Gospel” mean?

One of the principal difficulties of the word Gospel in the church is that it has two distinct but related meaning. One is “the good news of/about Jesus, son of God, God incarnate and Christ.” (More on at least two of the words in that sentance in a later post.) The other is “a book/genre containing stories about Jesus of Nazareth that highlight his role as Son of God, God incarnate and Christ.” Clear?

I didn’t think so. A parallel, but not exactly similar, example would be the term “history” which can either mean “story about the past,” or “book containing stories about the past.”

I think the real challenge witht he word “Gospel”, though, is figuring when the speaker means the books and when they mean the message contained in the books. “I’m going to read to you from the Gospel according to Mark,” seems pretty clear, but “Repent and believe the Gospel,” is a little murkier. Does the call for the faithful to “believe the Gospel” or “preach the Gospel” mean that we must agree with, consent to or even share all of the details of the books (even when they are contradictory) or is what we’re swearing to about the meaning contained within the words?

I, for one, think it’s the later.

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