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Discussing the meaning of gospel in the NT cultural context, Wright demonstrates two predominent senses:

  • The Jewish OT background, with Israel still perceived as being in exile:

    Here again it is clear that, within the second-Temple period, some JEws at least were still looking earnestly for a fulfillment of the Isaianic promises. The ‘good news’ or ‘glad tidings’ would be the message that the long-awaited release from captivity was at hand (82)

  • The Greek background, or ‘news of victory’, particularly an emperor’s. Quoting the (now) oft-cited incrscription of Augustus’s rule:

    The providence which has ordered the whole of our life, showing concern and zeal, ahs ordained the most perfect conummation for human life by giving it to Augustus, by filling him with virtue for doing the work of a benefactor among men, and by sending in him, as it were, a savior for us and those who come after us, to make war to cease, to create order everywhere…; the birthday of the gos was the beginning for the world of the glad tidings that have come to men through him… (82)

Wright argues we can get lost in the discussion of the source of this idea and not see the destination:

The Isaianic message always was about the enthronement of YHWH and the dethronement of pagan gods; about the victory of Israel and the fall of Babylon; about the arrival of the Servant King and the consequent coming of peace and justice. THe scriptural message therefore pushes itself of its own accord into the world where pagan gods and rulers stake their claims and celebrate their enthronements.

In other words, it’s both and they are competing visions for the future of humanity.


  1. Wright, Pauline Perspectives, 82-83