What Exactly Is a Gospel, Anyway?

The word itself comes from a Greek word euangelion, which literally means “good news.” In the New Testament, it refers to the announcement that Jesus has brought the reign of God to our world through his life, death, and resurrection from the dead.

“'The time has come,'” Jesus said. 'The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!'” – Mark 1:14-15

"The good news… Regarding God’s Son, who descended from David in his physical lineage, and who was appointed by the Holy Spirit to be the Son of God in power through his resurrection from the dead: Jesus, the Messiah, our Lord." – Romans 1:2-4

Interestingly, both Jesus and Paul derived this important word from the prophetic poetry of Isaiah where the future arrival of God’s kingdom through the Messiah is called “good news” (see Isa 52:7-10). The Gospels are not merely historical chronicles but are also narrative announcements that make the significant claim that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel and the true Lord of the world. The Gospel stories claim to both recount history and aim to persuade the reader to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and become his disciple.

The Gospels share four features that make them unique amongst other biblical stories or contemporary biographical narratives. First, they expertly weave in Old Testament stories into the story of Jesus. Second, the stories are designed to make claims about the identity of Jesus. Third, they all present the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus as the climax of the entire biblical narrative. Last, the chronology of events has been rearranged to better reveal unique aspects of Jesus’ character.

The Bible Project, “What is a Gospel?”

“Mark…also inaugurates a new literary genre in applying the term ‘gospel’ to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ….In Mark’s understanding, therefore, the gospel is more than a set of truths, or even a set of beliefs. It is a person, ‘the gospel fo Jesus Christ.’ 

W.R. Marxsen correctly notes that Jesus Christ can be substituted for ‘gospel,’ and, moreover, that ‘gospel,’ as employed by Mark, is a title or description for the entire narrative of Jesus from baptism through death and resurrection.”

James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark