The Greek New Testament uses many different words to describe distinct methods of communicating. There are thirteen hundred and twenty-nine references in the Greek New Testament using forms of the word lego, which is to say or speak. Two hundred and ninety-six times the word laleo is used, denoting saying orspeaking. One hundred and nine times parakaleo is used to reference exhorting, urging, or encouraging. Ninety-seven times didasko or teach is employed. Sixty-one times we find kerusso, which is typically translated as preach or proclaim.
Fifty-four times euangellizo appears, sometimes translated as preach, but referencing specifically the telling of good news. Eighteen times katangello is utilized (all in Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Philippians, and Colossians) to denote speaking out or intently proclaiming. Seventeen times elencho denotes rebuking or correcting. Thirteen times dialegomai is used to describe of a process of engagement and participating in dialogue. Ten times reference is made, with the word apologeomai, to making a defense. Ten times suzeteo is used to reference arguing or disputing. Nine times parresiazomai is used for speaking boldly. Three times diangello communicates a speaking through or giving notice. There are other communication words used in the Greek NT, but these verb roots (and their represented forms) make up the vast majority.
- 1329 – lego – say, speak
- 296 – laleo – speak
- 109 – parakaleo – exhort, urge, encourage
- 97– didasko– teach
- 61 – kerusso – preach, proclaim
- 54 – euangellizo – speak good news
- 18 – katangello – speak out, speak intently
- 17 – elengcho – rebuke, correct
- 13 – dialegomai – speak through, dialogue
- 10 – apologeomai – make a defense
- 10 – suzeteo – argue, dispute
- 9 – parresiazomai – speak boldly
- 3 – diangello – speak through, give notice
In addition to these verbs, two nouns are particularly helpful for the current discussion. Didaskalia, the noun form of the word teaching is used twenty-one times, while kerugma, generally translated as preaching (noun form), appears nine times.
- 21 – didaskalia – teaching, doctrine, instruction (noun)
- 9 – kerugma – message, preaching (noun)
In every instance of the word kerugma, the content of the preaching is for unbelievers—i.e., the gospel, or a message of sin and repentance.1 The post-pentecost2 instances of the term didaskalia are very pointed:
- Romans 12:7 – teaching within the body of Christ
- Romans 15:4 – written for our (believers) instruction
- Ephesians 4:14 – so that we as believers may not be carried about by every doctrine
- Colossians 2:22 – contrasts sound teaching with human precepts
- 1 Timothy 1:10 – contrasts with sound doctrine
- 1 Timothy 4:1 – teachings of demons
- 1 Timothy 4:6 – sound doctrine
- 1 Timothy 4:13 – exhortation and teaching
- 1 Timothy 4:16 – pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching
- 1 Timothy 5:17 – in speaking (preaching) and teaching
- 1 Timothy 6:1 – our doctrine
- 1 Timothy 6:3 (twice) – a different doctrine…and with the doctrine conforming to godliness
- 2 Timothy 3:10 – Timothy followed Paul’s teaching
- 2 Timothy 3:16 – all Scripture is profitable for teaching
- 2 Timothy 4:3 – they will not endure sound doctrine
- Titus 1:9 – sound doctrine
- Titus 2:1 – sound doctrine
- Titus 2:7 – purity in doctrine
- Titus 2:10 – the doctrine of our God and Savior
In every post-pentecost use of didaskalia, there is one of two characteristics of teaching evident: either the teaching is false and to be avoided, or else it is sound and for believers to heed. In comparing the two terms kerugma and didaskalia, kerugma is for unbelievers and sound didaskalia is for believers. Additionally, all but four of the uses of didaskalia appear in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus—two pastoral letters intended for the promotion of orthodoxy and spiritual growth in the church.
There are thirty-three instances of kerusso in the pre-pentecost NT, with all of them occurring in the Synoptics, and none in John’s Gospel. The remaining twenty-eight NT appearances are post-pentecost. Note the audience or recipients of the post-pentecost forms of kerusso:
- Acts 8:5 – proclaiming Christ to the city of Samaria
- Acts 9:20 – proclaiming in the synagogue that Jesus is the Son of God
- Acts 10:37 – the Baptism John proclaimed
- Acts 10:42 – to preach about Jesus to the people
- Acts 15:21 – those who preach Moses
- Acts 19:13 – Jesus, whom Paul preaches
- Acts 20:25 – Paul preaching the kingdom among the Ephesians (implied, prior to the founding of the church there)
- Acts 28:31 – preaching the kingdom of God (Paul welcomed all who came, and some he was teaching, to others he was preaching)
- Romans 2:21 – preach that one should not steal
- Romans 10:8 – the word of faith which we are preaching
- Romans 10:14 – a preacher, leading to hearing, leading to belief
- Romans 10:15 – someone must be sent, to preach
- 1 Corinthians 1:23 – preach Christ crucified
- 1 Corinthians 9:27 – I have preached to others
- 1 Corinthians 15:11 – we preach (the Gospel, as in 15:3-4), and so you believed
- 1 Corinthians 15:12 – Christ is preached
- 2 Corinthians 1:19 – Christ preached among you
- 2 Corinthians 4:5 – preach Christ Jesus our Lord
- 2 Corinthians 11:4 – preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached
- Galatians 2:2 – the gospel which I preach
- Galatians 5:11 – preach circumcision
- Philippians 1:15 – preaching Christ
- Colossians 1:23 – the faith….which was proclaimed
- 1 Thessalonians 2:9 – we proclaimed to you the gospel of God
- 1 Timothy 3:16 – He…proclaimed among the nations
- 2 Timothy 4:2 – preach the word
- 1 Peter 3:19 – He made proclamation to the spirits
- Revelation 5:2 – a strong angel proclaiming
In each of these instances kerusso (most commonly translated preach) refers either to the proclamation of the gospel to unbelievers, or to proclamation in the generic sense (as in Rev 5:2). It does appear at first glance that 2 Timothy 4:2 is an exception—that Paul is exhorting Timothy to preach the word as part of his pastoral function, and that this is an instance of preaching to believers. However, Paul’s usage of terms and the near context of Paul’s command indicates that 2 Timothy 4:2 is not an exception.
The Case of 2 Timothy 4:2
Paul writes five imperatives for Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2: preach (keruxon), be ready (epistethi), reprove (elenchon), rebuke (epitimeson), and exhort (parakaleson). The imperatives are needed because there will come a time when sound doctrine will be abandoned, and teachers will be accumulated that are not consistent with sound doctrine (4:3). In light of the teaching focus in 4:3, it would seem appropriate to assume that all the content of 4:2 is in a teaching context.
However, 4:5 adds the imperative to work the work of an evangelist (ergon poison euangelistou). Earlier Paul differentiates between the role of evangelist and pastor–teacher (Eph 4:11), and in all other of the seventeen Pauline instances of the word kerusso and its forms, Paul refers to either the preaching of the gospel to unbelievers or to proclaiming something in a generic sense (as in Rom 2:21). Further, in 1 Corinthians 15:2, Paul refers to “the word [logo—same root as in 2 Tim 4:2] which I preached [euengelisamen],” as that which resulted in belief, not edification.
If 2 Timothy 4:2 was an indication that Paul was mandating the preaching of the word to believers, it would represent a departure from his normal usage, and would be the only instance in the NT that such an imperative appears. Rather than take the hapax legomena interpretation, it seems more accurate to consider that Timothy’s preaching of the word had to do with the work of an evangelist rather than the pastoral component of communicating God’s word to believers.
Finally, it is worth considering in this context that there are fifty-four post-pentecost usages of the word preach (NASB) that are not rendered from the word kerusso. Forty-five of those instances are rendered from forms of euangelizo, which is a verb form of the phrase good message. Each of these instances have some reference to the proclaiming of the gospel.
- Acts 5:42 –teaching and preaching (euangelizomenoi) Jesus as the Christ
- Acts 8:4 – preaching the good news (euangelizomeno)
- Acts 8:25 – preaching the gospel (euangelizonto)
- Acts 8:35 – preached (euangelisato) Jesus
- Acts 8:40 – preaching the gospel (euangelizeto)
- Acts 10:36 – preaching (euangelizomenos) peace through Jesus Christ
- Acts 11:20 – preaching (euangelizomenoi) the Lord Jesus
- Acts 13:32 – we preach (euangelizomenoi) to you the good news
- Acts 14:7 – preach the gospel (euangelizomenoi)
- Acts 14:15 – preach the gospel (euangelizomenoi)
- Acts 14:21 – preached the gospel (euangelisamenoi)
- Acts 15:35 – teaching and preaching (euangelizomenoi)
- Acts 16:10 – to preach the gospel (euangelisasthai)
- Acts 17:18 – preaching (euangelizeto) Jesus
- Romans 1:9 – preaching of the gospel (euangelio)
- Romans 1:15 – to preach the gospel (euangelisasthai)
- Romans 15:20 – to preach the gospel (euangelisasthai)
- 1 Corinthians 1:17 – to preach the gospel (euangelisasthai)
- 1 Corinthians 9:16 (twice) – preach the gospel (euangelizomai)…preach the gospel(euangelisomai)
- 1 Corinthians 9:18 – preach the gospel (euangelizomenos)
- 1 Corinthians 15:1 – the gospel which I preached (euengelisamen)
- 1 Corinthians 15:2 – the word which I preached (euengelisamen)
- 2 Corinthians 10:16 – to preach the gospel (euangelisasthai)
- 2 Corinthians 11:7 – preached the gospel (euangelisamen)
- Galatians 1:8 (twice) – preach to you a gospel (euangelizetai)…what we have preached(euangelisametha) to you
- Galatians 1:9 – preaching to you a gospel (euangelizetai)
- Galatians 1:11 – gospel which was preached (euangelisthen)
- Galatians 1:16 – that I might preach (euangelizomai) Christ
- Galatians 1:23 – preaching the faith (euangelizetai)
- Galatians 3:8 – preached the gospel beforehand (proeuangelisato)
- Galatians 4:13 – I preached the gospel (euengelisamen)
- Ephesians 2:17 – preached (euengelisato) peace
- Ephesians 3:8 – to preach (euangelisasthai) to the Gentiles
- Philippians 4:15 – preaching of the gospel (euangeliou)
- Hebrews 4:2 – good news preached (euangelismenoi)
- Hebrews 4:6 – good news preached (euangelisthentes)
- 1 Peter 1:12 – preached the gospel (euangelisamenon)
- 1 Peter 1:25 – which was preached (euangelisthen)
- 1 Peter 4:6 – gospel…has been preached (euengelisthe)
- Revelation 10:7 – as He preached (euengelisen) to His servants the prophets
- Revelation 14:6 – gospel to preach (euangelisai)
The remaining nine post-pentecost non-kerruso renderings of preach in the NASB are as follows:
- Acts 21:28 – this is the man who preaches (didaskon) against (Acts 21:28 actually uses the word typically translated teach, though the NASB translates it as preach. It is worth noting that the people making the statement are not apostles, nor those heralding sound doctrine, but those attempting to have Paul harmed. This verse offers no data on whether or not teaching and preaching are distinct; it is simply the record of what was said by some ill-motivated individuals.)
- Romans 15:19 – fully preached (not rendered) the gospel (peplerokenai to euangelion, or completed the gospel)
- Romans 16:25 – the preaching (kerugma) of Jesus Christ
- 1 Corinthians 1:21 – foolishness of the preaching (the message preached, tou kerugmatos)
- 1 Corinthians 2:4 – and my preaching (kai to kerugma mou)
- 1 Corinthians 15:14 – our preaching (kerugma emon)
- Colossians 1:25 – the preaching – added, not rendered.
- 1 Timothy 5:17 – who work hard at preaching (not rendered, so better translated who work hard in the word) and teaching
- 1 Timothy 6:2 – teach and preach (parakalei, better to exhort or encourage)
Four of these instances render forms of kerugma (Rom 16:25, 1 Cor 1:21, 2:4, 15:14), and reference the proclaiming of the gospel. Two render words better translated as either teaching (as in Acts 21:28) or encouraging or exhorting (as in 1 Tim 6:2).
1 Timothy 6:2 is a context of encouraging or exhorting believers. The NASB’s translation of the imperative as preach confuses the technical aspect of preaching for encouraging or exhorting. This particular rendering is the equivalent of referencing the Holy Spirit in John 14:16 as the Preacher, rather than the Helper (or Encourager, or Exhorter). The final three occurrences (Rom 15:19, Col 1:25, and 1 Tim 5:17) add the term preached or preaching to the translation, but do not render the word from any Greek equivalent. In short, preach is not in any of these three passages. Most notable is the NASB reference of 1 Timothy 5:17 to elders as working hard at preaching and teaching. This passage is not advocating preaching as part of the elder/pastor role, but it is advocating instead the elder/pastor’s diligent labor in the word and in teaching.
These hundreds of words and passages all present a unified message: that the primary mechanism for disseminating information to the body of Christ is teaching, and to those outside the body, the primary tool is preaching. This is not to say that a pastor should not be preaching the gospel within the church. In fact, three times Peter refers in his second letter (2 Pet 1:12, 1:13, 3:1) to reminders grounded in the gospel, but these reminders were secondary to the broad teaching of content throughout Peter’s letters. Also, like as in Timothy’s case it would seem very fitting and appropriate to the pastoral role that there be an emphasis on doing the work of an evangelist.
However, in our seeking to understand what is the work of an evangelist, we must examine the many biblical instances of evangelism. The results of such an inquiry shows that in the NT era, evangelism was primarily conducted outside of the corporate meeting of the church. Preaching the gospel within those gatherings is certainly not prohibited, but there is another emphasis for the body that is mandated: teaching. While both activities of preaching and teaching are vital and commanded in their own contexts, there is definite and measurable distinction between the two. Confusing the two creates a significant imbalance in our understanding and in our practice. Perhaps it is time to revisit the pastor-as-preacher culture that has become so prevalent. The pastor’s primary function (as in Ephesians 4:11) is to shepherd by teaching.
1 Mt 12:41; Mk 16:8; Lk 11:32; Rom 16:25; 1 Cor 1:21, 2:4, 15:14; 2 Tim 4:17; Tit 1:3.
2 The two pre-pentecost references, Mt 15:9 and Mk 7:7, are general uses of the term, and not indicative of audience-specific content.