Gospels Compared to the Epistles Term Paper

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Gospels Compared to the Epistles

In Christianity the word gospel means good news. This word has come from the Old English word which means "good news." This comes from a translation of a Greek word "evangelion." The word gospel is used in different ways, but the main usage is in the announcement or proclamation of the saving activity of God through Jesus of Nazareth. This is the meaning of the usage of the word in New Testament. It is used is in referring to the four canonical gospels that are used as the basis of Christianity. These are the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. There are some other works also of the narratives of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that is contained in the gospels though they are written by others. An example is the Gospel of Thomas.

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There has been loose usage of the term by some other scholars to mean a hypothetical age of Early Christian literature and this is reflected in book titles like 'The Gospel and the Gospels'. The word was first used by Paul for this purpose, and this was at a time even before the present day Gospels had been written. He had said "of the Gospel I had preached to you. This is the method through which people were saved." He thus mentioned in simple terms that the reason why they were saved was the appearance of Christ after He was resurrected. This is made clear in his further writing where he said "that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Kephas, then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of them are still living, though some have fallen asleep. After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me." At the same time, the word in itself, or the Greek word evangelion was used for a particular style of writing which goes back to the 2nd century.

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On the other side, epistles are different - letters written to individuals or even groups of assembled Christians. In general the epistles are for the purpose of explaining important points of theology, and provide insight in the Christian Church. The largest number of epistles is called Pauline epistles or Corpus Paulinum. These were generally thought to be written by Paul and the names of different epistles are based on the persons or groups to who they were addressed to. The complete list is Epistle to the Romans, First Epistle to the Corinthians, Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Epistle to the Galatians, Epistle to the Ephesians, Epistle to the Philippians, Epistle to the Colossians, First Epistle to the Thessalonians, Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, First Epistle to Timothy, Second Epistle to Timothy, Epistle to Titus, Epistle to Philemon and Epistle to the Hebrews. Of these, the first is now expected to be written by Paul the apostle, and the author of the last is not known though it is attributed to Paul. The other lot of epistles is called general or Catholic Epistles and they are not written to any specific group, but to the Church in general.

During the medieval times, they were not published together with the epistles written by Paul but taken separately in the Praxapostolos. The first of these is the epistle of James and this James is 'the brother of the Lord'. The second is the First epistle of Peter and written by Peter the Apostle. The next is Second Epistle of Peter, and though in earlier years this was also felt to be written by Peter the Apostle, but now the scholars believe that this was written by some other person. Next are the First Epistle of John and the Second Epistle of John and then the Third epistle of John. All three are supposed to have been written by John the Apostle. The last of the epistles is the Epistle of Jude, who was the brother of Kames. Thus it is clear that there are four Gospels and 21 epistles that are accepted to be part of the Christian faith. It is also clear the Gospels are the story of the life of Jesus Christ along with his advice and other matters, whereas Epistles are letters or other messages that were written to Christians of that time, and they also clear up important questions of faith. Still they are not concerned with the life of Jesus Christ, per se.

Looking at the matter in specific, Gospel is the writing of the four - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are all independent accounts of the life of Jesus Christ. Though they are all independent, the facts of history as stated in them are in full agreement. It is made clear that Christ was born in Bethlehem. Then he came into his ministry about thirty years later and John the Baptist, who was six months older to him, recognized him when he saw Him coming and said "The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." This is recorded in John1:29. There are differences in the four Gospels - Matthew and Luke give descriptions of the birth of Christ while Mark and John do not give. All for Gospels provide the description of crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These are the most important parts of Jesus' life - provide proof of Him being a provider of salvation for men. He died on the Cross bearing the penalty for our sins.

That was the ultimate proof of the finished work of Christ. Then in New Testament there is one single book - Book of Acts. This provides the history of the events after crucifixion of Christ, and His resurrection and going to Heaven. At that time came Holy Spirit for the believers on earth as had been promised by Christ. Yet all these are comparatively smaller parts of New Testament, and the largest sections are the twenty one epistles. These are written to the first churches like those in Rome, Corinth or Thessalonica. They had also been written to pastors of that time like Timothy and Titus, or even specifically to Hebrew Christians. In the epistles is the doctrines and practice of Christianity. It has been laid out in the final forms as the Church was still developing. There truth was provided and error corrected.

Gospel is an important part of the practice of Christianity. In many churches there is a practice that all Christians must stand when any passage from the Gospels is read openly in the church - this is a way of showing respect to Him and His life. The Christians do not stand when any other portion of the Bible is read. In the Eastern Orthodox Churches, a lot of respect is given to the Gospels. These are normally positioned in an elaborate metal cover, and the position of this is in the central position of the altar. Only other things permitted to occupy similar places on the altar are the chalice and discos for the celebration of Eucharist, or a Cross which is required for certain festivals. When Little Entrance takes place, the Gospel is taken ceremoniously from the altar, and then carried through the nave of the Church and then back to the altar. Even for the purpose of reading the Gospel, it is taken from the altar and brought to the ambo. After the reading is over, it is returned to its original position.

Apart from the 21 epistles, four Gospels and Book of Acts, there is also Revelation traditionally accepted to have been written by John the Divine. These 27 books form the New Testament, and according to most experts, they were supposed to have been written probably during the course of a century. The Gospels focus on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the Epistles are letters to individuals or churches. Thus the contents of epistles are theological points and development of the church. These are the fundamental differences between Gospels and Epistles. Both are parts of the New Testament, but the reason why they were written is different, and thus their reflection in practice of Christianity is also different.

At the same time, one has to note that New Testament has been written and re-written many times. The common language at the time of Jesus was Aramaic, but according to experts, New Testament as it exists today was probably written in Koine Greek, and from that it has been translated into different languages. There are also claims that some of the books were written in Hebrew, but that claim is not generally accepted. It is also true that New Testament was written… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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