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As far as I know there are 4 Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

I am an ex-Christian (currently atheist) who had a debate with a Muslim about a few discrepancies between the Qur'an and the Bible. The Muslims believe that

  1. Haman worked for Pharaoh and is building babel tower
  2. Mary was a sibling of Aaron
  3. Jesus is given "gospel".

As a non-Muslim and atheist, I of course think that Muhammad simply made a mistake. Perhaps he didn't get the story right or wasn't consistent with his sources. But of course Muslim apologists will claim that it's a misunderstanding anyway: different Haman, different meaning of sibling, and different gospel.

The 3rd point is more interesting though. My Muslim friend pointed out that gospels already EXISTED before the Bible was written:

So it's a bit tricky. In Indonesia the word for "gospel" is "injil". I wonder where that word came from. Muslims seem to think that Jesus got the "gospel" like Muhammad got the Qur'an. But I think that's just not the case. The Gospels we have now, I understand them to be Jesus' late biographies, a bit like Hadith in Islam.

However, the fact that the word "gospel" DOES show up in the Gospels themselves is intriguing. What "gospel" was Jesus preaching because the Gospels as books weren't even written when he was living?

It looks to me that he was a Rabbi who preached typical Judaism stuff that might or might not be reinterpreted by his followers to be something much more than that.

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    This question is really about words having more than one meaning, e.g general and specific. There are many examples of revelation, but one book specifically called "Revelation". Many orthodox churches, but only one Orthodox Church. Similarly, there is the general message of "good news" or "gospel", but also four specifc Gospels. Sep 28, 2023 at 10:36
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    @ User 4951-The name of the four books called the "Gospels" is merely a title of them, because they contain the story of howJesus came to Earth and began to preach the Gospel (good news) of the Kingdom of God. There was no "previous" Gospel as your friend misunderstood. Gospel is an English translation of the Greek word for "Good News." Jesus's story was such good news, they decided to name the four books after it that proclaimed it: the Gospels.
    – ray grant
    Sep 29, 2023 at 21:23
  • @ User 4951-Yes! The word "Gospel" does appear within the books many times: Mark 1:14-15, Matthew 4:23, 9:35, Luke 8:1 "glad tidings", Mark 13:10, Ephesians 1:13, Acts 20:24, et al. The "Good news" is that God loves men so much He will forgive them of all their sins so they can go to heaven. But a punishment in this universe of justice had to be paid, so Jesus took that punishment in our place because of His mercy! A book that speaks of this amazing grace of God would appropriately be called The Gospel.
    – ray grant
    Sep 29, 2023 at 21:36
  • Quite simply, "gospel" = "good news".
    – OrangeDog
    Sep 30, 2023 at 22:58

4 Answers 4

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From a biblical, Christian standpoint, the word 'gospel' comes from the Greek word 'euaggelion' and means 'good news, tidings, word'. It can be called in English 'The Evangel' (the good news), and 'an Evangelist' is a Christian who declares this good news about Jesus Christ. When it comes to the written form of this in the Christian Greek Scriptures (the New Testament) there are four written accounts that explain the good news about Jesus Christ coming into the world to save sinners. As you correctly say, they are named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (after their respective authors) and most Bibles precede those titles with, "The gospel of..." (whichever one).

Just an important detail about the apostle John's gospel account - it was written last but when you say it was a "late biography of Jesus. A bit like Hadits in quran" that is not the case. None of the gospel accounts are biographies; John wrote his selected points "that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." (John 20:31 A.V.) It is nothing like the Hadiths, which are writings giving supplementary accounts from others who came later on, with their explanations as to how the Qur'an should be interpreted, with myriad additional instructions. There is nothing approaching that in the entire New Testament.

Back to the main question as to what the 'gospel' is that Jesus preached: You ask, "What "gospel" was Jesus preaching because gospels books weren't even written when he lived". The nation of Israel had a huge collection of messages from God written down over the centuries, meticulously copied, covering from the Creation to the prophet Malachi (some 400 years before Jesus was born) foretelling a coming Messiah and another prophet (who turned out to be John the Baptist) to prepare the way before Messiah. John the Baptist declared the coming new covenant Christ would inaugurate, and a great deal about that is in the ancient Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament). Jesus read from them when in synagogues. He applied prophecies of Isaiah to himself. Read Isaiah 9:1-2, 61:1-3 and how that applied to Jesus in Matthew 4:13 to the end of that chapter, plus Mark 1:1-39, plus Luke 4:14-28. Isaiah's writings are often called "the gospel in miniature" so full are they of the coming Messiah.

As John the Baptist came to declare "the beginning of the gospel" about Jesus Christ, his message first needs to be grasped and acted on if one is to then understand the good news of Jesus Christ. Until that happens, there is likely to just be confusion, especially when contradictory claims from other religions are accepted without question. John the Baptist taught the need to repent of one's sins (accompanied by water baptism) if one would be able to receive Jesus Christ and understand why the gospel was supremely 'good news' in Him.

Yes, all Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Bible have exactly those same four gospel accounts. But there is no point in considering the myriad other questions you have mixed in because a correct start has to be made if one is to understand the good news in Christ. I have said as much as is advantageous to help you make a fresh start with your question about what the biblical gospel is that Jesus preached. I respectfully suggest that you won't find the answer to that in non-Christian holy books that do not believe Jesus to be the One the Bible states him to be.

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  • Gospel of the Kingdom We do well to notice that the word, kingdom is often associated with Jesus's announcement of the Gospel (Good news). The Good News was that the King Messiah had come and was about to set up His Kingdom on Earth! (Matthew 2:2, 13:1-52, Acts 1:3). But this would not be like any ordinary kingdom of men; it would be a spiritual kingdom residing in the hearts of the disciples of Christ. (Romans 14:17,) A kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy, in the Holy Spirit! With ministers who were not a hierarchy, but servants one of another.
    – ray grant
    Oct 2, 2023 at 19:59
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As noted, "gospel" means "good news".

There is one Gospel.

There is also one correct history (this is a tautology). As Christians, we believe that the whole of Scripture, starting from Genesis 1-3, are faithful (that is, correct) records of that history. In Genesis 1-3, we learn that God Created everything, including humans, and that it was all initially "very good". We then learn that we humans messed it up. This is the bad news, the "anti-gospel" if you will, and the reason that we need a Gospel in the first place.

The first occurrence of that Gospel is in Genesis 3:15. The one, true Gospel — that is, the promise that God will redeem us — is found throughout the Old Testament.

The realization of that Gospel occurs in the person of Christ. Of that realization, there are four main accounts, which you correctly identify as the "gospels" of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We call them "gospels", but here what we mean is that they are accounts of the one Gospel.

Thus, the same word is being used in different ways. Jesus can "give gospel", by telling people about Himself and reminding us of the promise that dates back to Genesis 3. Jesus (Christ) is the Gospel; He is the fulfillment of that promise. "The gospels" are specific accounts of that fulfillment; that is, they record the Gospel. But the Gospel has existed since Genesis 3, and there are many accounts of it, not just "the four gospels".

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Gospel of the Kingdom It is best to define words in order to come to a clear understanding of any topic. First, when people refer to the four biographies of Jesus they call them "The Gospels". This is because these books tell of the Good news (Gospel) of the coming of Jesus to be our Savior. (They are called Injil by Muslim scholars.) Used this way, "Gospel" is merely a title given to each of the four books written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These are the same in Catholic and Protestant and Orthodox Bibles.

Gospel is a contracted and modernized form of the ancient English words "God's Spel" (or "God's story"). These words were used to interpret the biblical Greek word for "good news." (euanggelion, Gk.) So "the Gospel" is the "Good News" that Jesus announced when He ministered in Israel at His first coming. And this Good News was that the Kingdom of God was about to be established on Earth! This was because the King had arrived. The Royal Messiah was here!

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, and say, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17)

And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel (good news) of the Kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. (Matthew 9:35)

The "Gospel" (Good News) that Jesus proclaimed, was straight from the Father God which Jesus received from Him...for Jesus had come from the Father. It was not received, like Mohammed in a cave, from angels. And this Good News was prophesied about hundreds of years previously by the Prophets. They said the Christ would come and bring Good News to all the nations for every people. (Genesis 12:1-3, Isaiah 2:2-3)

Again, the word Gospel is placed on the four books, and they are called by that name, because they contain the story of how Jesus came and proclaimed the Good News (Gospel of the Kingdom of God) to everyone. There is only one story of redemption (salvation) in the Holy Bible (called The Book in Quran), but it was prophesied about by the earlier prophets, so it is a supernatural message; it is Good News indeed!

Notice that the four Biographies (Gospels) were based on eye-witness accounts not on rumors decades later. Everything Jesus did was done in real time in the busy everyday culture of Israel. And many people witnessed His preaching and miracles.

And Jesus put the stamp of approval on this message of Good News---proved it true---by dying and rising from the dead and ascending to heaven! He is considered the Risen King of kings! As well as the Savior of mankind.

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In the first place, the Gospel is one. There is a compilation of letters from the witnesses of that time (30-90ad). There are not four gospels, although there are four letters.

The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from178 the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from179 God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments,180 then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Clement of Rome

They preached the Gospel. Singular.

  1. John, the disciple of the Lord, preaches this faith, and seeks, by the proclamation of the Gospel, to remove that error which by Cerinthus had been disseminated among men, and a long time previously by those termed Nicolaitans, who are an offset of that “knowledge” falsely so called, ... He also bestowed salvation on the men included in the creation; thus commenced His teaching in the Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made. ... For the living creatures are quadriform, and the Gospel is quadriform, as is also the course followed by the Lord. For this reason were four principal (καθολικαί) covenants given to the human race:3460 one, prior to the deluge, under Adam; the second, that after the deluge, under Noah; the third, the giving of the law, under Moses; the fourth, that which renovates man, and sums up all things in itself by means of the Gospel, raising and bearing men upon its wings into the heavenly kingdom.
  1. These things being so, all who destroy the form of the Gospel are vain, unlearned, and also audacious; those, [I mean,] who represent the aspects of the Gospel as being either more in number than as aforesaid, or, on the other hand, fewer. Irenaeus AH Book III Chapter XI

One gospel, four "aspects".

OP What Gospels are in the Gospel?

One.

In the NT it denotes the "good tidings" of the Kingdom of God and of salvation through Christ, to be received by faith, on the basis of His expiatory death, His burial, resurrection, and ascension, e.g., Act 15:7; 20:24; 1Pe 4:17. Apart from those references and those in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and Rev 14:6, the noun is confined to Paul's Epistles. The Apostle uses it of two associated yet distinct things,

(a) of the basic facts of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, e.g., 1Cr 15:1-3;(a) of the basic facts of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, e.g., 1Cr 15:1-3;

(b) of the interpretation of these facts, e.g., Rom 2:16; Gal 1:7, 11; 2:2; in (a) the "Gospel" is viewed historically, in (b) doctrinally, with reference to the interpretation of the facts, as is sometimes indicated by the context. Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words

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  • There quite clearly are four "gospels" in the New Testament, and 21 additional letters.
    – OrangeDog
    Sep 30, 2023 at 22:57
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    Sorry, the idea of 4 gospels in the NT is a modern invention based on the idea that John's gospel was written hundreds of years after 70AD. As quoted, the earliest church believed it was ONE gospel and four aspects or views. four as in man, lion, ox, eagle; or four-fold veil). Clearly, there is ONE gospel.
    – SLM
    Oct 1, 2023 at 1:30
  • That's not true. Those four books have been called gospels since the 2nd Century. To deny that they are called gospels and that there are four of them is simply insane. Yes, there is one Gospel, but there are also four particular gospels. And a whole load more than four letters.
    – OrangeDog
    Oct 1, 2023 at 9:27
  • @OrangeDog what exactly do you think are the 4 gospels (plural)? Identify the 4 different gospels in your OP. IOW, every answer is telling you the same thing. There is ONE gospel, though 4 books (and letters), 4 aspects. The Good News (Gospel) is about Christ's birth, death, burial, resurrection for your sins. There is not another 3 gospels denying or expanding these things.
    – SLM
    Oct 1, 2023 at 18:00

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