Evangelist (Grk. euaggelistēs) derived from the verb euaggelizomai, meaning “to announce good news” (euaggelion), is a primary New Testament concept. In the Hebrew Bible we find a similar figure in the messenger who brings good news (mĕbaśśēr) and proclaims peace (Nah. 1.15). The “prophet of consolation” in Second Isaiah is also a messenger of good news, announcing the deliverance of the people (Isa. 40.1–2). Consequently, Jerusalem is exhorted to convey the good news to the neighboring cities that their God is coming to take care of his flock (Isa. 40.9–11) and to bring with him peace, happiness, and salvation (52.7–8).

In the Greco‐Roman world the words euaggelion and euaggelizomai had acquired technical connotations associated with important events in the Roman empire. In the New Testament the word euaggelistēs occurs only three times, whereas the substantive euaggelion and the verb euaggelizomai occur seventy‐six and fifty‐four times respectively. In the Gospels, Jesus is presented as a preacher of the good news of the kingdom of God (Mark 1.14–15; Luke 20.1). He tells the disciples of John the Baptist that the poor are being evangelized, recalling Isaiah 61.1 (Matt. 11.5; Luke 7.22); the same text is referred to in Luke 4.17–19. (see Gospel, Genre of.)

Outside the Gospels, the word “evangelist” has three different meanings. First, it was a title for early preachers of the gospel. In a certain sense, all apostles were evangelists, since their duty was to preach the gospel (Gal. 1.8; Rom. 1.15). Gradually, the term came to be confined to the disciples of the apostles. In Ephesians 4.11, “evangelist” is third in a list of offices in the church, after apostles and prophets but before pastors and teachers. Timothy is referred to as someone performing the work of an evangelist (2 Tim. 4.5), probably because of the role he played in establishing the believers in their faith (1 Thess. 3.2). Philip, one of the seven, is also called an evangelist (Acts 21.8) because he preached the gospel to the Samaritans and those outside Judea (Acts 8.4–40). In a more restricted sense, the word denotes the author of one of the four canonical Gospels; this usage first appears in the third century CE. Traditionally, the four evangelists are symbolized by a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle, on the basis of Revelation 4.6–10 (cf. Ezek. 1.10). Finally, in modern times, the word has developed a more specialized meaning, referring to a traveling preacher or revivalist.

Joseph Pathrapankal, C.M.I.