Roman Influence on the Birth of Christianity

The Term “Gospel”



  • The term gospel is an old-English form of “good news,” which stems from the Greek word evangelion.

  • Prior to the Middle Ages, the term gospel didn’t exist. The Greek term evangelion is of importance here (root term for the modern-day “evangelical”).

  • Prior to Christianity, the term evangelion had as much or more meaning and emotion in Roman culture as gospel has in Christianity today.

  • The Romans proclaimed evangelion to announce a new Caesar or a birth of a divine heir to the throne.[1]

  • The earliest Christian writings (the first three Gospels in their original translations) used the term in nearly identical fashion to the Roman use:

    • Mark 1:1 states, “The beginning of the evangel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

    • In Luke 1:19 an angel proclaims evangel announcing the birth of John the Baptist to his father.

    • In Luke 2:10 an angel proclaims evangel announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherds.

  • Evangelion appears almost 80 times in New Testament writings, but it never appears in the prior Jewish religious writings of the Old Testament.



[1] Chaim Potak, Wanderings, Chaim Potaks’s History of the Jews, Alfred Knopf, New York, 1978, pg 280.



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