A good question: Did Jesus and Paul preach the same Gospel?
One question, four answers
‘They speak to different contexts’
Yes. No. Maybe. It depends on the context.
This isn’t very helpful, so let me try and unpack it.
Gospel (literally ‘good news’) is first used to proclaim God’s saving actions around 540BCE, in Isaiah 40:9. Before this, the word is used very generally: ‘Good news. We’ve won a battle’, for example.
The ‘Nazareth manifesto’ in Luke 4 is the blueprint for Jesus’ kingdom-bringing ministry. In Matthew, Jesus makes a similar statement to the messengers who come from John the Baptist in prison – tell John what you see and hear, and the list is an expansion of Luke’s kingdom vision…
Rosalind Selby is Principal of Northern College
‘Isaiah shaped Jesus and Paul’
According to Mark, our earliest written Gospel, God’s ‘saving message’ in the events of Jesus Christ is best described as euangelion, ‘good news’, or more accurately, ‘good announcement’. The term is clearly significant for Mark since he uses it seven times, more than any other Gospel writer. Only in Paul’s letters do we find more use of the term (66 occurrences), and it is in Paul that we find the earliest evidence of the early Church’s use of the word. Paul sometimes spoke of ‘the Gospel of God’, and more often ‘the Gospel of Christ’….
Moses Agyam is Tutor at Cliff College, Derbyshire
‘Jesus is the centre of their Gospel’
If you read Paul’s letters, he is both a fierce defender of the Gospel, and eager for everyone to receive it. He does everything ‘for the sake of the Gospel’, he is eager ‘to proclaim the Gospel’, he endures imprisonment for the Gospel. But is his Gospel the same one proclaimed by Jesus?
At first, it can look like there are significant differences. Jesus proclaims the good news (or Gospel) that the kingdom of God has come near. Paul, in contrast, proclaims Jesus himself as being the centre of the good news.
Can the two be reconciled? Or are they just different? We need to dig a little further.
When Paul proclaims the Gospel, it is centred around Jesus. But it is centred not just on the person of Christ, but also a narrative, a story, an account of what God is doing in and through Jesus…
Jonathan Tallon is New Testament Tutor at Northern Baptist College, Luther King Centre, Manchester
‘The basis for their Gospel was Jewish’
‘What commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus was asked and he answered as any Jew: ‘The first is: Hear O Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might. The second is this: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.’ Every Jew will recognise both the Shema, a Jewish declaration of faith, which is recited twice a day, and the command to love your neighbour.
It is unsurprising that a rabbi from the Galilee, a child of Jewish parents and raised in accordance with Jewish tradition, should preach the Gospel in this way. Throughout his life, Jesus lived among Jews and his followers were Jews…
Ed Kessler is Founder President of the Woolf Institute
This is an extract from an article published in the December 2022 / January 2023 edition of Reform