In my opinion there is a serious problem with the title and the OP of this thread, and with Mason’s article quoted in the OP. Below I will discuss my objections against the following sentences of Mason’s article.
The novelty of Christian usage [of the word euangelion] is unmistakable.
It was something that he [Paul] connected only with his own work, often in strikingly proprietary terms.
Mason contradicts the first quote himself as he also says ‘the singular neuter form euangelion
was extremely rare before the NT.’ This means that the word or notion was not invented by Paul. Mason gives some examples of Greek authors who used the word euangelion
, but he forgets one particular use that may be decisive in the analysis. The word euangelion
, singular as well as plural, occurs in the Priene Calendar Inscription of 9 BCE. Priene was a city in Asia Minor, one of the working areas of Paul. The use of the word euangelion in a text glorifying the emperor Augustus some decades before Paul’s time shows that this term was part of the imperial cult. The imperial cult was not only in effect during the reign of Augustus, but also afterwards, including Paul’s time.
In summary this means that an important euangelion
was active in Paul’s time and working area before his mission started. Paul’s use of this word/notion was not new, but reactive to the imperial cult and deliberately (and extensively) opposing it.
In the second quote Mason says that Paul connected the word euangelion
‘only with his own work’, and this statement is also false. In Galatians 1:6 Paul says: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him [Paul] who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel.
And in verse 11 he continues: For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not a man’s gospel.
Paul opposes his divine ‘Christ’ gospel to ‘a man’s gospel’, which clarifies the ‘different gospel’ of verse 6. What else could this ‘different gospel’ which is ‘a man’s gospel’ mean in Paul’s time and working area than the ευανγελιων/ευανγελια of the cult of the Roman emperor?
IMO the chronological sequence of the use of the word euangelion
in connection with the origins of Christianity is as follows:
1. The use of this word in the context of the cult of the Roman emperor
2. Paul’s use of this word in the context of his preaching of the future Christ (= the future Jewish emperor), in diametrical opposition to the flourishing cult of the Roman emperor.
3. Mark’s use of this word for his text about Jesus, the man who – after Paul’s time – became the incarnation of Paul’s expected, anonymous, future Christ.