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An Exposition Of The Gospels by The Most Rev. John Macevilly D.D.

THE English word, Gospel, is of Saxon origin, derived from the Saxon words, God spell, which signify Good news. Its corresponding word in the Greek, ευαγγελιον, in Latin, Evangelium, bears the same signification. The word, ευαγγελιον, is employed by classical authors to denote sometimes the reward conferred on the bearer of good news; sometimes, the sacrifice offered in thanksgiving for good tidings. In SS. Scripture, it is employed sometimes to denote the entire doctrine of Christ, “prædicate Evangelium omni creature” (Mark 16:15), “qui non obediunt Evangelio, pœnas dabunt, &c.” (2 Thess. 1:9); sometimes, the preaching of this doctrine, “Cujus laus est in Evangelio” (2 Cor. 8:18). Here, it denotes good news, or tidings, the most joyful ever communicated to the human race, embracing the entire economy of Redemption through Christ. By a metonomy, the word signifies the history of that good news. As sanctioned by Ecclesiastical usage, it may be described to be “the history of the coming of Christ on earth, of His Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension into Heaven, which history the Catholic Church declares to have been written under the inspiration of God’s Spirit.” The declaration of the Church is the Seal that authenticates the inspired character of this history. Without it St. Augustine would not have received the Gospel. “Ego Evangelio non crederem nisi me Ecclesiæ Catholicæ commoveret auctoritas.” (Lib. Contra. Epist. Manichi quam vocant fundamenti, Tom. viii., c. 5.)

This Gospel is “Holy” in its object and Author, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is holiness itself; in its subject—The life and actions of our Lord; in its end—the sanctification of the world.

It is said to be “according to Matthew,” as recorded by St. Matthew. It by no means implies that a different subject is treated of by all the Evangelists, but only that, while the history of our Lord’s life and actions is given substantially the same by all, the following is the form in which it is recorded by St. Matthew.

It seems nearly certain, and is almost universally admitted, that the titles prefixed in our Bibles to the Gospel, “THE HOLY GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO MATTHEW,” or “MARK,” &c., were not written by the Evangelists themselves. For, there is a great difference between the titles given in some versions and editions and those given in others. In some, they are rather short; in others, very long. Their perfect identity of expression in all the Gospels, with the exception of the Evangelist’s name, in each case, would go far to prove the same, as the Evangelists rarely employ identical expressions. Moreover, St. Mark commences his Gospel with the words, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God,” which clearly shows he prefixed no other heading, such as is found in our Bibles. It was not customary with Hebrew writers to give a leading title, save in the text itself. No doubt, from the very beginning the Gospel of each Evangelist was authenticated by the Church as the work distinctly bearing the name of each. Hence, amongst the charges brought by Tertullian against Marcion (Lib. 4, Contra Marcion), he accuses him of using a Gospel which did not bear the author’s name.

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