Evangelical - evangelistic - evangelism

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The related words evangelical, evangelist, evangelistic, evangelise (or evangelize - see -ise - -ize), and evangelism all derive from, and in some cases are almost transliterations of, Greek originals which are compounds of εὖ (eu, ‘well’, the adverb from ‘good’) and ὰγγελία (angelia, ‘message’, ‘report’). The central idea in this group of Greek words is that of (bringing) good news and, as is illustrated below, the various uses of their English descendants can all be seen, in one way or another, to reflect this idea.

Evangelical, used as an adjective, may mean either

  • based on or in some other way related to (the teaching of) the Gospels, i.e., the first four books of the New Testament, each of which is attributed to one of the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – the word Gospel comes from the Old English gόd (‘good’) + spell (‘message’) and hence means ‘good news’ or ‘good tidings’; or
  • related to or characteristic of those Protestant denominations or other groups which hold that personal conversion and belief in redemption from sin through Jesus’ death is the only means of salvation (they also tend to believe in the primacy of the Scriptures, or Bible); or
  • passionately and/or tirelessly promoting (a cause or doctrine) and seeking to win over others to support it. (Rather than using evangelical in this sense, it is perhaps better to use evangelistic – for which see below.)
  • As a noun, evangelical denotes a person who is a member of an evangelical denomination or has strong evangelical views.

An evangelist is either

  • a person who preaches, sometimes at meetings in the open air, in the hope of winning converts for the Christian faith; or
  • a person who is a passionate advocate for any cause or doctrine whatsoever and seeks to win over others to support it.
  • Written with an initial capital, Evangelist refers to one of the authors of the four Gospels, i.e., Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.

To some extent the uses of the word evangelistic resemble those of evangelical. Thus it may mean:

  • relating in some way or other to evangelists;
  • passionately and/or tirelessly promoting (a cause or doctrine) and seeking to win over others to support it.
  • Written with an initial capital, Evangelistic means: of or relating to any of the authors of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

To evangelise or evangelize is either

  • to be a passionate advocate for any cause or doctrine whatsoever and seek to win over others to support it.

Evangelism is either preaching the Christian message or passionately promoting any cause or doctrine and seeking to win over others to support it.

See also Evangelist.