Enlarging Our View of the Gospel

“Our lord King David has made Solomon king.” 1 Kings 1:43

CHIASM, 1 KINGS 1:41-45

A–Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they were finishing their feast. On hearing the sound of the trumpet, Joab asked, “What is the meaning of all the noise (kol: voice) in the city?” v. 41  (The noise in the city)

B–Even as he was speaking, Jonathan son of Abiathar the priest arrived. Adonijah said, “Come in. A worthy man like you must be bringing good news (basar).”  v. 42  (Good news/Gospel)

B1–“Not at all!” Jonathan answered. “Our lord King David has made Solomon king.” v. 43  (Gospel: a new king has come to rule)

A1–Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king at Gihon. From there they have gone up cheering, and the city resounds with it. That’s the noise (kol: voice) you hear. v. 45  (The noise in the city)

There is a dominant view in Christian preaching, teaching and literature about what the word, gospel, means. For instance, on the site, Bible.org, we read:  “When Christians refer to the ‘Gospel’ they are referring to the “good news” that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sin so that we might become the children of God through faith alone in Christ alone.”[1] This widely-held, popular view, draws its support in the writings of Paul. “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,  and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16) When asked to define the gospel, many pastors turn reflexively to these verses. Some narrow the definition even further, asserting that the gospel exclusively pertains to salvation from sin by the death of Jesus at the cross. This is part of Paul’s view in the quoted verses, but not the whole view, in that he states that Jesus not only died for our sins but “that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”[2] The resurrection–the conquest of death–factors strongly into Paul’s view of the gospel. If we restrict ourselves to a superficial reading of the writings of Paul, then this is the gospel we would see. The question at hand is this: is Paul’s treatment of the Gospel the one and only treatment found in the New Testament?

Briefly, let’s compare Paul’s view of the gospel to that of Mark. According to surveys that I have read, Mark is the least read of all the gospels.[3] Mark used the Greek word, euaggelion (yoo-ang-ghel’-ee-on), translated as gospel, eight times. In none of those eight usages did Mark explicitly connect Jesus’ death on the cross to a gospel that speaks of the forgiveness of sin. Mark’s use of the term, gospel, twice in Chapter 1, verses 14 and 15, forms a chiasm:

A–After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news (Gr. euaggelion) of God.  v. 14  (Gospel)

B–“The time has come,” he said. “The Kingdom of God has come near.” v.   15a     (Kingdom of God)

A1–“Repent and believe the good news (Gr. euaggelion)!”  v. 15b  (Gospel)


The central meaning of the chiasm points to the Kingdom of God being near as the message of the gospel. No mention of sin, no mention of death, resurrection, forgiveness, atonement, etc. The “good news” in this passage is that the Kingdom of God is eggus (eng-gus)–in Hebrew, this would be karav–intimately close, or in the same space as.

Turning from Paul and Mark, a question arises. What would the word, gospel, have meant to a Jew living in 1st-Century Judea? The word translated as “good news” in Hebrew–the dominant language of Judea in the time of Jesus–is basar. This word is found 26 times in the Old Testament, so it can be reasoned that it was not unknown to 1st-Century Jews in the times of Jesus. In the Hebrew Scriptures, there is basar, “good news,” of different types–for instance, the announcement of a child’s birth in Jeremiah 20:15; victory over an enemy (2 Sam. 18:19-20 and 1 Sam. 31:9). There is yet another “type” of good news that connects the information we reviewed in Mark to the literary arrangement, a chiasm, referenced at the top of this article from 1 Kings 1. Let’s explore that chiasm.

As a backdrop, 1 Kings 1 begins by painting the picture of King David in declining health. Adonijah (the Lord is Yah), his eldest surviving son, declared himself to be David’s successor (ani malak).  (1 Kings 1:5) In honor of this, he sacrificed fattened livestock at a place called Eben Ha-Zoheleth, the stone of crawling things, a signal that his presumptive kingship was ill-fated. (1 Kings 1:9) He invited “all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the men of Judah, the king’s servants,” while excluding Nathan the prophet, Benaiah the warrior and Solomon, his younger brother. (1 Kings 1:10) He surrounded himself with the powerful figures of Joab, the commander of the army and Abiathar (Eb-ya-thar) the priest. (1 Kings 1:7, 19) Bathsheba and Nathan confronted the enfeebled David about these events. (1 Kings 1:17-27) David declared Solomon king (1 Kings 1:30), he was anointed king by Zadok the priest (1 Kings 1:39), a trumpet sounded and “all the people went up after him, playing pipes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound.” (1 Kings 1:40)

With this background information in hand, we arrive at the verses forming the chiasm. In verse 41, all in Adonijah’s circle heard the sounding of the trumpet and the celebration. Joab questioned what the noise (kol) was about. This corresponds to verse 45 in which Jonathan, the son of Abiathar the priest, explained the noise. The Hebrew word, kol, repeats in these two verses. And this “noise” was the result of what happened in Verse 43–“Our lord King David has made Solomon king.” That was the “good news” brought by Jonathan to Adonijah in verse 42.  And what did the “good news”–the gospel–mean? It was that a new king had come to rule, only this wasn’t good news to Adonijah’s ears, since that king would be Solomon. This gospel–that a new king had come to rule–was central not only in this chiasm, but also very familiar to 1st-Century Jewish ears. It corresponds closely with Mark 1, in which the gospel is that “the Kingdom of God has come near,” a kingdom led by Jesus the Messiah, the King of Kings–a new king who had come to rule.


[1] https://bible.org/article/what-gospel

[2] Bible.org offers, from its own point of view, a more expanded definition of the gospel: “In summary, what is the gospel? It is the message of the good news of salvation, the word of truth offered to mankind by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. It is a message not only of eternal life, but one that encompasses the total plan of God to redeem people from the ravages of sin, death, Satan, and the curse that now covers the earth.”

[3] BibleGateway.com shared statistics on the ten most-accessed books in the Bible. Of the Gospels, Matthew placed 2nd, John 3rd and Luke 7th. Mark did not make the list. https://overviewbible.com/popular-books-bible-infographic/

One thought on “Enlarging Our View of the Gospel

  1. I find this exposition of “gospel” drawn from its early usage in the Old Testament to be extremely helpful to our understanding of the “gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.” I, too, have reason to lament the use of gospel in reductionist terms: the forgiveness of sins on the merit of Christ’s death, a knowledge that is totally unaware of the OT root of the word: the proclamation of the arrival of a king and his domain.
    Jesus came to preach the “gospel” of the kingdom of God, not in the earthly sense. “My kingdom is not of this world.” His parables illustrate the spiritual sense of the kingdom, that is, to be received in the heart of man. The point is, one cannot understand the saviorhood of Jesus outside of His authority as King.

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