Our word "Gospel" comes from the Old English: gōd spell which means "good tidings." This was a direct translation (in it's day) for the Greek εὐαγγέλιον (euangelion): good message... the good news!
Naturally, the vast majority of English Bibles translate euangelion as either good news or gospel. But what does euangelion really mean? Does it really do the concept of euangelion justice to simply translate it literally as good news?
The reason why I bring this up is because recent scholarship (the last few decades) has been revealing that there is a depth of meaning behind euangelion that can't be captured by a literal translation. As more and more manuscripts are discovered that are also written in Koine Greek we can get more context for how certain words are used. It has become clear that the word euangelion is used most frequently in a very specific context: announcements to the citizens of the empire concerning royalty, specifically birth and coronation proclamations.
"The word euangelion was not invented by the Gospel writers... It referred to an announcement of 'glad tidings' regarding a birthday, rise to power, or decree of the emperor that was to herald the fulfillment of hopes for peace and wellbeing in all the world" (Mounce's CEDONTW).
"The idea of good news... had two principle meanings for first-century Jews. First, with its roots in Isaiah, it meant the news of YHWH's long-awaited victory over evil and rescue of His people. Second, it was used in the Roman world for the accession, or birthday, of the Emperor" (NT Wright's glossary in his "for Everyone" series).
So euangelion is not just, "Hey, honey, I've got some good news. I got a raise at work..."
No! Euangelion is all about, "GOOD NEWS!! An heir; a SON has been born to the emperor!" or "GOOD NEWS!! The reign of the new King has just begun! It's the beginning of a new era!"
On top of this, it is of note that in the Gospel of Mark the word euangelion is used 7 times (for those of you unfamiliar with the significance of numbers in the Bible please read: this). Couple this with the fact that the passion narrative in Mark's gospel is "arranged according to the coronation ceremonies of the Roman Emperor" (Velvet Elvis, 64) and I think we are running into a pretty significant theme.
The reason why I bring this up is because I think a lot of Christians are under the impression that the gospel is about personal salvation... but maybe it's not!
Over the next few weeks I'll be developing this line of thought (and it's implications) a bit more.
In the meantime:
What do you think?
How is this similar or different from what you think the Gospel is?
What implications do you see when you encounter this alternative definition of euangelion?