The word “gospel” in Christian circles has developed a meaning of its own that goes beyond the original definition. This impacts the way people understand it.
Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel… (I’m basing this post on the words of Mark 1:14-15)
In this century, many Christians have been conditioned to believe that the “gospel” has something to do with Jesus dying on a cross as a sacrifice for sin. It might mean that elsewhere in Paul’s letters, but probably not here.
I just like to keep things simple by applying a layperson’s definition that isn’t packed full of 4th through 21st century theology so I can try to understand what people in the first century might have heard.
Translators converted the Greek word euangelion (Strong’s 2098) into “gospel.” The definition for it is “good tidings.” Jesus came preaching good tidings.
Good tidings of what? There’s some debate about this.
It depends upon which ancient Greek text you use. You see, not all ancient texts agree with each other. Does it make a difference? No, not really. Because every translation from Greek is an interpretation of what Jesus said in Aramaic anyway…and that makes it very gray.
So gray in fact that I so wanted to title this post – The Gospel of God in 50 Shades of Grey. But I resisted.
As black and white as we want to think the words in the Bible are – without any areas of gray – the truth is that it’s all gray. It’s all gray because we don’t have the original texts from Greek (they are all copies of copies) and we don’t have it in the words of the original language in which much of it was spoken. I’ve come to find out that we don’t even understand the mindset of the Hebrew/Aramaic speaking people of that age.
We simply have to do our best to interpret what we’ve been given in the light of what we trust about Jesus and God.
Good tidings to me are things that bring delight. When I’m hungry, it’s good tidings to hear that dinner is ready. When I’m tired, it’s good tidings to hear that I have a warm, sheltered bed to sleep in. When I’m cold, it’s good tidings to hear someone say, “Wrap this blanket around you.”
It’s good tidings to me to hear that God is good, all the time. I don’t have to worry about anything I do today because the Creator might stop allowing the rain and sunshine to fall on me. I simply have to be smart enough to worry about the natural consequences that come with disrupting harmony in the world.
The translations that use the NU ancient Greek text tell us that Jesus preached “the good tidings of God.” Those translations who chose to use a different popular ancient text tell us that Jesus preached the good tidings of “the kingdom of” God. Does that make a difference? Not to me. Both are good tidings.
The first words out of Jesus’s mouth in the first canonical Gospel written might be equated to “God is good — all the time.” Jesus preached the good tidings of God. That was quite a radical thing to declare. Jesus’s message was different from centuries of tradition that portrayed God as someone that needed to be feared for what might be done to you.
The Aramaic speaking people of Jesus’s day did not fear that God would burn them forever if they were bad. That’s wasn’t part of their theology or mindset. The concept of “hell” developed when Christianity spread and started getting mixed with the ideas of Greeks and Roman mythology.
Yet many Jews did fear a God who got angry and killed people when they were disobedient. It wasn’t perpetual torture after death they feared. But they did fear a God who could quickly snuff you out if you got out of line.
Jesus came and preached good tidings of God.
Then he said, “The opportunity has come. The kingdom of God is at hand.” (You know I can’t let this opportunity slide by – you can read about it here.)
The Aramaic word for God (alaha) means unity. The kingdom of unity (or the creative development of unity) is within your grasp.”
“Repent, and believe in the good tidings.”
I’ve said it lots of times, and it bears repeating because you’ve heard it so many more times as meaning “be sorry.” Repent (not the English word, but the Greek word – metanoia) means “change your mind” or “turn away” or “change the way you think.”
Stop thinking God is ready, poised, and waiting to hurt you. (A spiritual law is already in place that covers this – you’ll reap what you sow.)
Trust the good tidings about God. This is the gospel Jesus came and proclaimed.