“Preaching” for Lexham B.D.

February 11, 2011

(Remember that this material is copyrighted by the Lexham Bible Dictionary [Logos Bible Software])

*Preaching (Heb basar, “to announce [good news]”; qara, “to proclaim [good news]; Gk euaggelizo, “to proclaim good news”; katangello, “to proclaim [the gospel]”; kerusso, “to herald [the gospel]; laleo, “to speak [the gospel]”) Preaching is the proclamation of God’s message, whatever the content, though most often the good news of the gospel.  In the Old Testament, it is comparatively rare, usually dealing with proclaiming or explaining God’s message. In the New Testament, John the Baptist, Jesus, the apostles and other spokespersons all declare the good news about Jesus Christ. There is also a sense, because of the oral nature of the biblical world, in which the entire Bible is preaching.*

!! Preaching in the Old Testament. The concept of “preaching” emerges primarily in the later Historical Books and in the Prophets. In Neh 6:7, Sanballat falsely claimed that Nehemiah had gotten prophets in Jerusalem to “proclaim” (HCSB) that there was a king in Judah. Jonah was ordered by the Lord to go to Nineveh and “preach the message that I tell you” (Jonah 3:2, HCSB), which he did (Jonah 3:4), bringing about mass repentance (Jonah 3:5). In Isa 61:1, the Servant of the Lord is prophesied to “bring good news to the poor” (HCSB), which Jesus says is fulfilled in His preaching in Nazareth in Luke 4:17-21. The closest example in the Hebrew Bible to preaching in the modern sense is Neh 8:7-8. There, the Levites “read out of the book of the law of God, translating and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was read” (HCSB).

!! Preaching in the New Testament. From Matt to Rev, the preaching of God’s Word, notably about Christ, is at the heart of the spread of Christianity across the Roman Empire. From the beginning of their ministries, both John the Baptist and Jesus preach the gospel of the kingdom of God (e.g., Matt 3:1; Matt 4:17). In obedience to the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20; Acts 1:8), the apostles and their co-workers preached the good news of the finished work of Christ in Jerusalem (Acts 2:14), Samaria (Acts 8:12), and to the Gentiles (Acts 14:7, 21), all the way to Rome (Acts 28:31). In letters like Romans and Galatians, Paul goes to great lengths to show that the gospel he preached was the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises and prophecies, and Peter emphasizes the same point (1 Pet 1:12, 25). Paul is particularly concerned that the gospel message being preached not be distorted by false teaching (e.g., Gal 1:6-9). Before the climactic events of the end of the age, Jesus guarantees that “all nations” will have the opportunity to hear the good news (Matt 24:14), which will bring about a great final spiritual harvest (Rev 14:6-7, 14-16).

!! The Bible as Preaching. In ancient oral cultures, written documents, including all the biblical books, were “written-down preaching,” a permanent record that substituted for face-to-face speaking and hearing. In the Ancient Near East, before silent reading and long before the printing press, documents were written down when the speaker/preacher could not be present with an audience or to preserve the content for future generations. The latter is seen in Deut, which is Moses preaching and applying the Law of Moses to the new generation about to enter the promised land. Moses was about to die and would be unable to repeat his preaching again, though Israel would need his explanation and application for all future generations. In the New Testament, Rev 1:3 makes it clear that the scroll of the Apocalypse was to read and heard orally by the seven congregations in Asia (Rev 1:4), as if John, imprisoned on Patmos (Rev 1:9), was speaking to them himself. Paul’s use of a secretary in dictating his letters (most obvious in Rom 16:22) underscores the oral dynamic: if Paul could not travel at that moment to preach to a particular church, he preached his message in his mind’s eye, as he dictated.  Then, upon arrival, the carrier of the letter would re-preach it in reading it aloud to Paul’s audience. Such examples are proof that the Bible not only contains preaching, it actually is entirely preaching recorded in writing.

–A. Boyd Luter

!! Bibliography

Baird, John S. “Preach, Preaching,” in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Ed. W.A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984: 868-70.

Craddock, Fred. “Preaching,” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary. Gen. Ed. D.N. Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992: V: 451-54.

Dodd, C.H. The Apostolic Preaching and Its Development: Three Lectures. Chicago: Willett, Clark and Company, 1937.

Greidanus, Sidney. The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.

Luter, A. Boyd. “Homiletics and Mission,” in the Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions. Gen. Ed. A.S. Moreau. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000.

Morris, Leon. The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, Third Ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965. 

Mounce, Robert H. The Essential Nature of New Testament Preaching. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960.

Skinner, Craig. “Preaching,” in the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Eds. C. Brand, C. Draper and A. England. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2003: 1322-23.

Wells, C. Richard and A. Boyd Luter. Inspired Preaching: A Survey of Preaching in the New Testament. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2002.

Worley, Robert C. Preaching and Teaching in the Earliest Church. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1967.

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