Does the scriptural term gospel have the same meaning for us today as it did for the early saints?

    “Does the scriptural term gospel have the same meaning for us today as it did for the early saints?” Ensign, Jan. 1975, 25

    Does the scriptural term gospel have the same meaning for us today as it did for the early saints?

    Dr. Noel B. Reynolds, assistant professor of philosophy, Brigham Young University: The term gospel has retained a remarkable etymological purity as it has been translated over the centuries by Christians, first from Hebrew to Greek, then to Latin, and finally to English. The Old English godspel, the Latin bonus nuntius, the Greek euangélion, and the Hebrew besorah all share the central meanings of “good news,” “glad tidings,” and “joyful message.”

    A close examination of the scriptural usage of the term provides strong justification for these translations. As the Savior very carefully explained to the Nephites, the gospel is a specific message given to men in their fallen condition, a message that witnesses to them that through the atonement of Jesus Christ they can be saved in the kingdom of God if they will (1) have faith in Jesus Christ, (2) repent of their sins, (3) be baptized for the remission of sins, (4) receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and (5) endure to the end. Of course, as the Savior himself points out in this same passage (3 Ne. 27:13–21), this message might also be considered bad news to those who prefer their proud and wicked ways, because they will be damned. (See 3 Ne. 27:17.)

    Very similar statements have been made by Nephi (2 Ne. 31, 32) and by Mark (Mark 1:1–13). Each of these writers chose to present his summary definition of the gospel in the context of the historical account of the Savior’s baptism. These accounts also stress both through precept and his example the same formula for salvation.

    It is thus very interesting to compare this very narrow usage, which is typical of the scriptures, with the rather broad range of meanings that the term gospel has acquired over the centuries in the context of Christian religion. For example, scholars use the term gospel to contrast New Testament teachings in general with the law of Moses. Some Protestant sects have referred to their distinctive teachings as “the gospel;” to distinguish these unique elements from Christian thought in general. Another tradition teaches us to refer to any record of the life and teachings of Jesus as a gospel, as, for example, we speak of the four gospels.

    Some readers of this statement might wonder if the formula reported here as the gospel is not overly simplified. No mention has been made of temple marriage, missionary work, welfare, home teaching, and so forth, but those questions are anticipated in the excellent instruction formulated by Nephi. He specified that “enduring to the end” requires that we “feast upon the words of Christ,” for they “will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Ne. 32:3.) Certainly, any member of the Church who feasts daily upon the words of Christ will know that if he is to receive eternal life, he should affirmatively respond to the callings that are given to him by the Lord through the properly authorized servants.