An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


The English word “gospel” (from Anglo-Saxon godspel) or “good news” translates the Greek euangelion. Originally in Christian usage it meant the good news of God's saving act in Jesus Christ, focused on the cross and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1-11). The term was used in the opening verse of the Gospel of Mark. It signified that the prefacing of the account of Jesus' death and resurrection with a string of passages or pericopes covering his earlier ministry was a way of proclaiming the good news. The unintended result was that the term became a designation for the literary genre which was created by Mark's gospel, and it came to be applied to other works of the same genre. The NT contains four gospels-Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Other apocryphal writings, mostly heretical, have been designated as gospels.

The gospel in the Episcopal liturgy is the final reading from Holy Scriptures taken from the canonical gospels at the eucharist (BCP, pp. 326, 357). It marks the climax of the liturgy of the word. The gospel may include elaborate ceremonial, such as a gospel procession with two candle bearers and a thurifer. The congregation stands for the gospel, which may be read or sung from the midst of the congregation. The proclamation of the gospel is properly done by a deacon, and in the Episcopal Church the gospel must be proclaimed by a gospeler in holy orders. Acclamations normally precede and follow the gospel. In the Episcopal Church, the Sunday gospel is drawn from the three-year cycle of the lectionary (BCP, pp. 889-921). The gospel may also be read at the Blessing of a Marriage (BCP, p. 426), and at the Burial of the Dead (BCP, pp. 479, 495).

A gospel reading is appointed for each day of the church year by the Daily Office lectionary (BCP, pp. 936-1001). The gospel reading may be used at Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer, and it is the last reading of the lessons. It may be read by a lay person or a member of the clergy. See Gospel Acclamation; see Gospel Book; see Gospel Procession.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.