A Greek Word Study

by Al Maxey

There are three Greek words used in the New Covenant documents that need to be examined in order to help us better understand the biblical concept of the evangelist and the work of evangelism. They are actually three forms of the same Greek word.

#1 --- euangelizo

This word appears 55 times within the pages of the New Testament writings. It is from this word that we get our English word "evangelize." It literally means: "A proclaiming of that which is good." In the various translations of the NT it is generally rendered "to preach the gospel."

Those who are specifically listed in the New Testament writings as "proclaiming that which is good" are:

Jesus (8 times)
God (1 time)
Philip (3 times)
Timothy (1 time)
The Disciples of Jesus (12 times)
Angels (4 times)
John the Baptist (1 time)
The Twelve Apostles (2 times)
Peter and John (1 time)
Paul and His Traveling Companions (24 times)

The nature or content of the good message proclaimed, as described in the NT writings, is varied: Hope for the Poor and Down-trodden --- the Coming Birth of Jesus --- the Kingdom of God --- Future Judgment of the Wicked and Rest for the Righteous --- Jesus and His Resurrection to Life --- Peace with God through Christ Jesus --- the Word of the Lord --- the Faith --- the Faith and Love of the Saints --- the Mystery of God's Eternal Will --- Justification through Faith --- the Nations Blessed in Abraham. Thus:

To evangelize is to be engaged in the good work
of proclaiming that which is good

#2 --- euangelion

This Greek word appears 77 times within the pages of the New Covenant Scriptures. It literally means: "A message of good." It is most often translated "gospel" or "good news."

The nature or content of this message is again quite varied in the New Testament writings: The Kingdom of God --- the Life and Ministry of Jesus --- the Grace of God --- Truth and Salvation --- Life and Immortality --- Resurrection from the Dead --- Future Judgment of the Wicked and Rest for the Righteous.

#3 --- euangelistes

This Greek word appears only three times in the entire NT (Acts 21:8; Ephesians 4:11; II Timothy 4:5). The Latin Vulgate (produced by Jerome in 382 - 405 A.D.) rendered this word "evangelista." This term has carried over into our English versions as "evangelist."

It is literally a combination of two Greek words which mean "a messenger of good" (W.E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of NT Words). The ancient Greeks used this particular word as a title for their priests and priestesses who relayed messages from the gods (Arndt & Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the NT and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 318). Some of the early church Fathers used the word of those who read from the Scriptures in a public assembly and then expounded upon what was read (Hasting's Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, Volume 3, p. 379).

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