On Εὐαγγελίζω and Bible Translation

I am not a Greek scholar, nor am I a son of a Greek scholar. So, with great caution, but with confidence nonetheless, I disagree with BDAG on its definition of εὐαγγελίζω (yooangghelizo) in Luke 8:1. εὐαγγελίζω semantically possesses the basic idea that a person is announcing or bringing good news.

Luke 8:1 says that Jesus was κηρύσσων καὶ εὐαγγελιζόμενος: “he [Jesus] was proclaiming and announcing/bringing the good news.” BDAG notes that εὐαγγελίζω can either be used in a general sense to mean “bring good news” or in a narrower, specific way to mean “proclaim the gospel.” While slight, the differences are important enough to impact the meaning of passage. Bringing the good news conveys a different idea from, though related to, announcing the good news. BDAG uses Luke 8:1 as an example of this latter meaning, though without explanation for why this meaning, and not the former. I believe it errs in placing Luke 8:1’s use of εὐαγγελίζω in what it calls the specific range of meaning.

Εὐαγγελίζω is paired with κηρύσσω (kayrooso), which unequivocally means proclaiming or making an announcement. So if Luke was using both κηρύσσω and εὐαγγελίζω, with εὐαγγελίζω intending to mean the latter definition BDAG provides, Luke 8:1 could be translated fairly as “he was announcing and proclaiming the good news.” If Luke wasn’t being redundant, why include both?

In Luke 1:19 Gabriel says that he is present to λαλῆσαι πρὸς σὲ καὶ εὐαγγελίσασθαί (“speak to you and bring you the good news.”) BDAG identifies εὐαγγελίζω here in the first meaning of “bring the good news” (it does again for Luke 2:10). In both 1:19 and 8:1 εὐαγγελίζω is paired with another speaking verb, and is designed to contrast and highlight the speaking and bringing of good news. BDAG placing its definition for 8:1 in the category of announcement, rather than the category of bringing, appears to be arbitrary and disconnected from what is happening in the rest of the sentence.

In 1:19 Gabriel is both speaking the good news and functioning as the messenger of it, with the good news being a literal announcement. Jesus is in 8:1 is proclaiming the good news and acting as the bearer of it, because he is the literal good news. Having Jesus both κηρύσσων and εὐαγγελιζόμενος is intended to highlight that he not only is announcing the gospel, he is bringing the gospel, because he is the gospel. This is the direction I took my sermon when I preached this text a few weeks ago. Translating εὐαγγελίζω here as “proclaim” completely misses that.

This demonstrates the weakness of relying on the lexical definition to come up with the meaning of a passage. Words only possess meaning in their context. Dan McCartney would say that interlinear translations kill the souls of Greek students, and this is surely one of the things that he had in mind. Doug Gropp constantly reminded his Hebrew students that reading the Bible in English is like kissing through a veil. I am so grateful Michael Kruger annually lays out why it is important for pastors to know the biblical languages. I may be wrong in my understanding of εὐαγγελίζω in Luke 8:1, but I don’t think so. My efforts to engage with God’s word produced a deeper understanding of the ministry of Christ, and I hope provided richer spiritual nourishment to the congregation who received the sermon.

This is why with dismay I read this Logos article on not contradicting Bible translations from the pulpit. If I followed the Logos mentality I would be outsourcing reading the Bible to translation software. Mark Ward’s argument strongly assumes that I am not capable of confidently and accurately arriving at a different translation from published biblical translations. And even if I do, then I should not share that as I preach the passage. This is an inadvertent devolution from the Reformation. A key feature of the Reformation was the effort to make the Bible accessible to the common man, rather than depend on inaccessible scholarship. This was accomplished by the Reformers learning the biblical languages so that they could provide and expound God’s word. By ceding the pastoral work of studying God’s word in the biblical languages and then teaching out of that study, the work of the Reformation slowly unravels.