Gospel [M.E., = good news; evangel from Gr., = good news], a written account of the life of Jesus. Though the Gospels of the New Testament are all anonymous, since the 2d cent. they have been named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The first three are called Synoptic Gospels because they agree in much of their subject matter, wording, and narrative order and so appear to be written from a common vantage point. Some Pseudepigrapha—e.g., the Gospel of Thomas—partly resemble the canonical Gospels. The solemn reading of the day's Gospel is a special feature of the liturgy in many churches. Formerly the Gospel (i.e., a book of the Gospels) was used instead of the Bible for the oath in courts in Christian countries. This sort of honor paid to the book resulted in some outstanding examples of illumination—e.g., the Lindisfarne Gospels (see Holy Island) and the Book of Kells (see under Ceanannus Mór). Sometimes the term "gospel" is used in a broader sense to indicate the Christian message of salvation.
See J. B. Green, How to Read the Gospels and Acts (1987); R. Price, Three Gospels (1996).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.