The word for "preach, " "proclaim" in the Greek New Testament is kerysso [khruvssw]. It is used thirty-two times in the Gospels, but about half of these are parallel occurrences within the Synoptic Gospels. "Proclaim" is complementary to the more specific term "evangelize" (euangelizomai) or the phrase "announce the good news, " which contains within its meaning the object that is announced or proclaimed the good news. However, usually when "proclaim" (kerysso [khruvssw]) is used the context includes its object, which in the majority of instances is the gospel or Jesus. The noun proclaimer, herald (keryx), refers to one who proclaims news publicly.
The Gospels. The usage of the term is very similar in the Synoptic Gospels. It is not used in John's Gospel. All three Synoptic Gospels include the use of the term to describe John the Baptist's activity and message ( Matt 3:1 ; Mark 1:4 ; Luke 3:3 ). It is obvious that the intent is to speak of John's activity as a proclaimer, but the message is also included. Matthew 3:2 describes the message most extensively as repentance because the reign of God is near.
mr 1:7 also uses the word "proclaim" to describe John's proclaiming of the Coming One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. Matthew and Luke use different words to speak of this proclamation.
After speaking of the introductory ministry of John the Baptist, the Synoptics turn to the ministry of Jesus. Both Matthew ( 4:17 ) and Mark ( 1:14 ) use "proclaim" to describe Jesus' activity of announcing the reign of God. Matthew gives a concise summary of Jesus' message. Mark designates the content of Jesus' proclamation as "the gospel of God" and goes on to give a summary ( 1:15 ). At this point Luke speaks of Jesus teaching (didasko [didavskw]) in the synagogues ( 4:15 ). However, in his distinctive account of Jesus' sermon at Nazareth ( 4:16-30 ), Luke records Jesus' own quotation of Isaiah 61:1-2a, which contains the statement of his (the Servant's) task as "to proclaim freedom to the prisoners" ( 4:18 ) and "to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" ( 4:19 ). Here it is evident that the New Testament understanding of "proclaim" goes back to the Old Testament, especially to Isaiah, and includes the object of God's saving activity. Mark ( 1:38 ) uses the term to express the purpose of Jesus' departure from Capernaum. Luke ( 4:43 ) uses the synonym "proclaim the good news" (euangelizomai). All three Synoptics go on to describe Jesus' first preaching tour in Galilee using "proclaim" ( Matt 4:23 ; Mark 1:39 ; Luke 4:44 ). Only Matthew ( 4:23 ) includes the content ("the good news of the kingdom") and makes this proclamation part of his distinctive threefold summary of teaching, preaching, and healing.
Mark uses "proclaim" to describe the leper's telling of how Jesus healed him ( 1:45 ). Neither Matthew nor Luke use the term here. However, Luke's expression of "news" (logos [a [logo"]) spreading ( 5:15 ) enhances the understanding of "proclaim" as viewed by the inspired writer Luke.
Only Mark ( 3:14 ) relates that when Jesus chose the twelve that he commissioned them to proclaim. And certainly the content of "the kingdom of God" is implicit in this commission. Luke does not use the term here ( 6:13 ), and Matthew's structure is unique.
Matthew ( 9:35 ) and Luke ( 8:1 ) tell of Jesus proclaiming the gospel throughout cities and villages. This gives a clear picture of the meaning of the term. Further, Luke here distinctively combines "proclaim" (kerysso [khruvssw]) and "proclaim the good news" (euangelizomai), showing that the two terms complement each other, with the latter making the content more explicit. But it must be noted that Luke does include the separate, explicit phrase describing the content the kingdom of God (ten basileian tou theou).
All three Synoptics use the term to describe Jesus' commissioning of the twelve. Mark says that "they went out and preached" ( 6:12 ). At this point Luke ( 9:6 ) uses "proclaim the gospel" (euangelizomai), but in 9:2 Luke uses "proclaim" (kerysso [khruvssw]) to describe their commissioning by Jesus. Matthew distinctively brings together the choosing and commissioning in his Gospel and uses proclaim (kerysso [khruvssw]) at the point of commission ( 10:7 ), as Luke does.
Matthew ( 10:27 ) and Luke ( 12:3 ) also use "proclaim" in the special exhortation to the disciples to courageously confess Jesus. Jesus says that in the future, secret things will be proclaimed publicly. This instruction makes clear the meaning of proclaim to publicly declare a matter.
Mark ( 5:20 ) and Luke ( 8:39 ) use "proclaim" to describe the actions of the Gerasene demoniac after Jesus casts out the demons. The healed man goes out to proclaim what Jesus had done for him. Matthew does not record this action in his distinctive account in 8:28-34.
The account of Jesus' healing of a deaf and mute man in Mark 7:31-37 uses "proclaim" to describe the action of the crowds following Jesus' healing of the dumb man in verse 36. Luke does not record this incident, and Matthew does not record this statement ( 15:30 ).
As they record Jesus' eschatological discourse, Matthew ( 24:14 ) and Mark ( 13:10 ) both use "proclaim" to speak of Jesus' assertion that the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations before the coming of the end. This statement, perhaps, pictures the broadest public proclamation mentioned in the Gospels.
Matthew ( 26:13 ) and Mark ( 14:9 ) also use the term to relate Jesus' defense of the woman who anointed his body for burial. In response, Jesus here speaks of the gospel being proclaimed in the whole world. The content of gospel is explicit in both Matthew and Mark, and both express clearly Jesus' worldwide public proclamation. This echoes the similar statement in the eschatological discourse.
The distinctive conclusion of Luke's Gospel records Jesus' final instructions. The resurrected Lord opens the minds of the disciples to the Scriptures and gives the Great Commission. Jesus points out that the Messiah had to suffer and rise, and that forgiveness of sins must be proclaimed (kerysso [khruvssw]) to all the nations. Although the unit is not in the oldest manuscripts, the longer ending of Mark ( 16:9-20 ) contains a use of "proclaim" similar to that of Luke 24:47. Mark 16:15 gives Jesus' Great Commission to his disciples to go into all the world and proclaim the gospel. Verse 20 reports that they did go out and proclaimed everywhere. Thus, in the Gospels "proclaim" is used to describe the public heralding of the reign of God by Jesus and his disciples.
Acts. The word "proclaim" (kerysso [khruvssw]) is used eight times in Acts. Acts 8:5 states that Philip began to proclaim the Christ in Samaria. The mention of crowds and the reference to great joy in the city would point to a public proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah to the whole city.
The usage is quite similar in Acts 9:20. Here it is the converted Saul who proclaims Jesus as the Son of God in the synagogues of Damascus. Again the great response and the plot against Saul's life by the Jews point to the public nature of the proclamation. Also here the content of the proclamation is very specific and similar to Paul's own letters.
In Acts 10:37 reference is made to the proclamation by John the Baptist. In Acts 10:42 Peter states that Jesus had commanded the disciples/ witnesses to proclaim to the people that Jesus had been appointed by God as the final Judge. Acts 15:21 is an explanatory note given by James to support the conclusions of the Jerusalem Council. It speaks of Moses as having been proclaimed in every city from the earliest times.
Acts 19:13 is a brief reference to the practice of Jewish exorcists who used the command, "In the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches (kerysso [khruvssw]), I command you to come out." Acts 20:25 records the words of Paul's farewell address to the Ephesian elders. He declares that he has gone about proclaiming the kingdom.
Finally, in the last verse of Acts ( 28:31 ), Luke summarizes Paul's prison ministry in Rome. He states that Paul proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about Jesus for two whole years. It should be noted that in this verse the kingdom and Jesus are spoken of together. The teaching of the Gospels would support the conclusion that it was Jesus who inaugurated the kingdom of God.
It is impressive that these passages of Acts all describe a public proclamation; usually the content is the kingdom or Jesus.
Paul's Letters. "Proclaim" is used twice in Galatians. The first occurrence ( 2:2 ) is Paul's mention of the gospel that he proclaims. The second ( 5:11 ) is a hypothetical argument with the intended conclusion that Paul no longer proclaims circumcision. The single reference in 1 Thessalonians describes Paul's ministry as proclaiming the gospel of God ( 2:9 ). First Corinthians contains four occurrences of "proclaim." In 1:23 Paul declares that he proclaims Christ crucified. First Corinthians 9:27 is a brief reference to Paul's having proclaimed to others the gospel is understood. Then 15:11 and 12 both refer to proclaiming Christ in defending the reality of the resurrection. Second Corinthians 1:19 affirms that Jesus Christ was proclaimed to the Corinthians by Paul. Second Corinthians 4:5 asserts that Paul proclaims Jesus Christ as Lord. Second Corinthians 11:4, as part of Paul's defense of his apostolic authority at Corinth, contains two mentions of "proclaim." The same statement mentions his opponents' proclamations and also that he had proclaimed the true gospel to the Corinthians.
Romans contains four occurrences of "proclaim." Romans 2:21 refers simply to Jewish proclamation not to steal. However, chapter 10 focuses on faith. Here (v. 8) Paul refers to the word of faith that he has proclaimed. Then in verses 14 and 15 Paul argues that proclamation is necessary for hearing, and that proclaimers must be sent by God. Here it is clear that proclaiming the gospel is a crucial part of God's work of salvation.
Two of Paul's letters from prison use the term "proclaim." Colossians 1:23 gives Paul's statement that the gospel has been proclaimed to every creature and that he is a servant of that gospel. In Philippians 1:15 Paul discusses the different motives that lead to the proclamation of Christ. Paul's later pastoral letters contain two occurrences of "proclaim." In 1 Timothy 3:16 Paul seems to give a concise summary of the gospel, speaking of Jesus as having been proclaimed among the nations. In 2 Timothy 4:2 Paul charges young Timothy to proclaim the Word.
These uses, like those in the Gospels and Acts, set forth the public nature of the Christian proclamation. They also show that the content of this proclamation is the gospel or Christ his death and resurrection for the salvation of humankind.
General Letters and Revelation. Finally, two occurrences of "proclaim" in the general letters and Revelation are to be noted. In 1 Peter 3:19 reference is made to the exalted Jesus' own proclamation of victory over the evil spirits to encourage the persecuted recipients of that letter. And in Revelation 5:2 John describes the awesome scene of the scroll in the hand of the One on the throne. He tells of a mighty angel asking the urgent question about who is worthy to open the scroll. Certainly both of these uses confirm the public nature of the proclamation being given.
Hobert K. Farrell
Bibliography. K. Aland, ed., Synopsis of the Four Gospels; C. H. Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching and Its Development.
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
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Bibliography InformationElwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Preach, Proclaim'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology".