“Preacher” And “Preaching”: Some Lexical Observations -- By: Craig A. Evans

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 24:4 (Dec 1981)
Article: “Preacher” And “Preaching”: Some Lexical Observations
Author: Craig A. Evans


“Preacher” And “Preaching”: Some Lexical Observations

Craig A. Evans*

The purpose of this essay is to offer some lexical observations concerning the words “preacher,” “to preach,” and “proclamation” as they function within the NT. It is the thesis of this study that a preacher, as one who preaches the gospel to those who are ignorant of it, and a parish minister, as one who shepherds the flock, are not one and the same. This thesis must be defended by a careful lexical analysis of the relevant vocabulary items. Following, then, is an examination of the words kēryx, kēryssō, kērygma, euangelizesthai and euangelion in their classical usage, NT usage and usage in the writings of the apostolic fathers, with a few citations taken from Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius. The purpose for this approach is to lay out a trajectory for the concept of “preaching” and how it is developed within the NT itself.

I. Classical Usage

Of the classical authors Homer, in the Iliad and Odyssey, uses kēryx with the greatest frequency (90 times in these two works while, surprisingly, kēryssō is used only 10 times). In so doing he gives us a detailed picture of the “herald” of ancient Greece. His qualifications entailed a loud, clear and, at times, even a melodious voice:1 “loud-voiced heralds” (II. 7.384); “clear-voiced heralds” (23.39); “the heralds made loud proclamation” (11.685-686).

The duties of the herald involved a variety of services besides that of proclamation. Note these examples: (a) As a messenger: “Hail, heralds, messengers of Zeus” (ll. 1.334; 7.274); “the herald, the city’s crier” (24.701); “a swift messenger… a herald, who was first to tell the news” (Od. 16.468-469); “they sent a herald forth… to bear word” (16.328-329). The herald also delivers the message for a general (II. 7.278) and is regarded as a servant (3.116). (b) As one who summons: “And let heralds, dear to Zeus, make proclamation throughout the city” (in an effort to prepare a city for war; 8.517-519); “and heralds made loud proclamation at the break of dawn that all men should come” (11.685-686; cf. Od. 2.6-8); “Agamemnon bade the clear-voiced heralds to summon” (II. 2.50). (c) As one privately employed: “the herald, the crier of the old king” (24.577). The herald served for a nobleman as a valet (24.149, 178). A herald can even serve as a butler (Od. 4.301). (d) As one publicly employed: “heralds, whose trade is a public one” (19.135); “the herald, the city’s crier” (

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