I am not sure how this happened, but I love words. I wasn’t a reader growing up, but something instilled in me the power of the right word. When we are trying to communicate, the choice of a word can make all the difference. In most languages we have a wonderful palate to choose from for whatever concept we want to convey.
Let me give you an example. Take the word “loud.” We hear that word and know that we are most likely referring to a level of volume. But, according to the website thesaurus.com, the word “loud” has 45 synonyms in the English language. Each of these words bring with them different emphasis, sometimes slight, and sometimes quite significant.
Think of the difference when a teacher says, “My students were really loud today,” verses when he says, “my students were really boisterous.” While both words convey high volume, the second version also makes us think and feel energy and activity.
Another example is when the judge comments, “that lawyer was very loud in her closing argument,” verses, “that lawyer was very emphatic in her closing argument.” Again, while both words contain some level of elevated volume, the first example doesn’t portray purpose, where as the second shows the lawyer trying to drive home a point of view or conviction.
Like any writer today, the biblical authors had similar choices to make when they chose words to convey their message. As in English, Greek words often have many synonyms. Sometimes those words have subtle differences, while others carry a significant meaning that would have conveyed a clear message.
We have been talking a lot lately as a church about the word “evangelism” which is derived from the Greek word “euangelion.” We know that this has to do with telling people about Jesus, but have you ever stopped to wonder why the biblical authors chose this word? They had at least 30 words in the Greek language that had the general meaning of informing people or announcing information. So why did the biblical authors choose euangelion to describe the good news of Jesus?
Euangelion was a common word in Greek society. It meant that someone was sharing “good news”, but this good news wasn’t general good news, it was pretty specific. As the author William Mounce notes, “It referred to an announcement of ‘glad tidings’ regarding a birthday, rise to power, or decree of the emperor that was to herald the fulfillment of hopes for peace and well being in all the world.” This was a word that carried serious social, political, and religious weight. This was meant for news that impacted all of humanity.
Now think of the Gospel of Mark when he writes at the beginning of the letter, “The beginning of the gospel (euangelion) of Jesus Christ, the son of God.” He isn’t just saying, “What I am about to tell you is pretty cool.” No, he is saying, “Pay attention because what I am about to tell you changes everything and impacts everyone. What I am about to tell you will bring ‘the fulfillment of hopes for peace and well being in all the world’”.
We are called to evangelize, to share this good news of Jesus Christ. Some of us are already comfortable with this and some of us are just starting to dip our toe in the water. Regardless of where you are at, I hope you take comfort in the power of the message. It is a message that has the power to change lives, to change societies, and ultimately will bring the fulfillment of peace to this world.