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Gospel
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Gospel

For the genre of Christian-themed music, see gospel music.

Gospels are a genre of ancient literature concerning the life of Jesus. The word derives from the Old English word for "Good News", a translation of the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον, euangelion. This refers to the 'good news' being told— that Jesus has redeemed a fallen world. Each of the books reveals, by telling the story of Jesus Christ's life, the "Good News" about Christ's life and presence. The word gospel can also have a narrower meaning, especially when used by evangelical Christians, to mean the specific actions of Christ that are necessary for salvation.

The use of gospel (or its Greek equivalent) to denote a particular genre of writing dates back to the 2nd century. It was clearly used to denote a genre in Justin Martyr (c. 155) and more ambiguously so earlier in Ignatius of Antioch (c. 117).

Table of contents
1 Canonical Gospels
2 Non-canonical Gospels
3 Liturgical Usage
4 External links

Canonical Gospels

Of the many gospels written in antiquity, exactly four gospels came to be accepted as part of the New Testament or canonical, possibly as early as Irenaeus of Lyons, c. 185.

Origin of the Canonical Gospels

Among the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke include many of the same passages in the life of Jesus and sometimes use identical or very similar wording. John, on the other hand, expresses itself in a different style and relates the same incidents in a different way, and is often full of more encompassing theological and philosophical messages.

The parallels between the first three Gospels are so telling that many scholars have investigated the relationship between them. In order to study them more closely, German scholar JJ Griesbach (1776) arranged the first three gospels in a three-column table called a synopsis. As a result, the Matthew, Mark, and Luke have come to be known as the Synoptic Gospels, and the investigation into the reason for this similarity is known as the synoptic problem.

Many solutions to the synoptic problem have been proposed, but the dominant view is that Mark is the first Gospel, with Matthew and Luke borrowing passages both from that Gospel and from another, lost source, known as Q. This view is known as the "Two Source" hypothesis.

Another theory which addresses the synoptic problem is the Farrer theory. This theory maintains Markan Priority (that Mark was written first) and dispenses with the need for a theoretical document Q. What Austin Farrer has argued is that Luke used Matthew as a source as well as Mark, explaining the similarities between them without having to refer to a hypothetical document.

Estimates for the dates when the gospels were written vary significantly, and the evidence for any of the dates is scanty. Broadly speaking, conservative scholars tend to date earlier than those who are less conservative. The following are mostly the date ranges given by the late Raymond E. Brown, in his book An Introduction to the New Testament, as representing the general scholarly consensus in 1996:

Non-canonical Gospels

In addition to the four canonical gospels there have been many other gospels that were not accepted into the canon.

The Diatessaron was a harmonization of the four canonical gospels into single narrative by Tatian around AD 175. It was popular for at least two centuries in Syria, but eventually it fell into disuse and no copies of it have survived, except indirectly in some medieval Gospel harmonies that can be considered its descendants.

Marcion of Sinope, c. AD 150, produced his own edition of the Gospel of Luke in accordance with his dualistic belief in two different gods, the compassionate God of Christ and the cruel God of the Old Testament. Specifically, he removed those parts of Luke that he considered too Jewish. He also rejected all other gospels.

See also Secret Gospel of Mark.

Other books, which were not accepted, form part of the New Testament Apocrypha, and include:

Some of these works are similar in style and content to the canonical Gospels. Others are Gnostic in style and content, presenting a very different view of Jesus' teaching.

Other works claiming to be gospels have surfaced in later periods. The Gospel of Barnabas originates in the medieval period. Works from the modern period (sometimes called modern apocrypha) include the Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Life of Issa. Parts of the Book of Mormon can also be considered to be a gospel, since they purport to tell of Jesus' appearances on the American continent.

Liturgical Usage

In many Christian churches, all Christians present stand when a passage from one of the Gospels is read publicly, and sit when a passage from a different part of the Bible is read.

Usage in Eastern Orthodoxy liturgy

Typically, the Gospel is publicly read only by a priest or bishop, although other Bible passages may be read by a designated lay person. Or the Gospel is read by a deacon after a priest or bishop gives him benediction. As in other churches, all stand while the Gospel is being read. Also, the Gospel book is normally kept in a prominent place on the altar. The only thing that is permitted to occupy its place on the altar is the Body and Blood of Christ during the Divine Liturgy, or on certain feast days a Cross. When the Gospel is read, it is brought from the altar to the nave in procession, and afterwards returned to its place. The daily reading is determined according to the annual liturgy calendar, but in the feast some designated part is added or replaced to the part which is according to the ordinary rading order. The cycle of reading order begins in the Pascha (Easter) with the Gospel of John.

In the Matin of Sunday service, after the reading of Gospel by a priest, the faithful s kiss to the Bible and the Cross and then receive the benediction from a priest.

External links