In Christianity, gospel means "good news". Received opinion holds that the word gospel derives from the Old English word for "good news", a translation of the Greek word ευαγγέλιον, euangelion (from this word comes the term "evangelist" see evangelism). However, the word corresponding to "good" in Old English had a long vowel, and would normally develop into a MnE *goospel, leading some scholars to hold that the Old English term was not a translation of the Greek "good news," but rather a fresh coinage, "message concerning God."
Gospel has generally been used in three ways:
- To denote the proclamation of God's saving activity in Jesus of Nazareth or to denote the message proclaimed by Jesus. This is the original New Testament usage (see Romans 1.1 or Mark 1.1).
- More popularly to refer to the four canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and sometimes other non-canonical works (eg. Gospel of Thomas), that offer a narrative of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
- Some modern scholars have used the term to denote a hypothetical genre of Early Christian literature (cf. Peter Stuhlmacher, ed., Das Evangelium und die Evangelien, Tübingen 1983, also in English: The Gospel and the Gospels).
The expression "gospel" was used by Paul before the literary Gospels of the New Testament canon had been produced, when he reminded the men of the church at Corinth "of the gospel I preached to you" (1 Corinthians 15.1) through which, Paul averred, they were being saved, and he characterized it in the simplest terms, emphasizing Christ's appearances after the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15.3–8):
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born."