Kerygma

  1. What does 'Kerygma' mean
  2. Fulfilment of Jewish Salvation History in the Life, Ministry, Death of Jesus
  3. The Resurrection
  4. Ascension - Enthronement of the Messiah
  5. The dawn of the Messianic Age - The pouring out of the Holy Spirit
  6. The Parousia
  7. The Invitation to repentance and renewal

What Does Kerygma Mean?

I am grateful to Joel Williams, a link to whose website is provided on the bottom of the page, for this very helpful summary of Kerygma. 
The Webmistress

Kerygma is a Greek word which means "proclamation, announcement, preaching" (BAGD, 430-31). In Erasmian Greek pronunciation, which is used in most universities for ancient Greek, both biblical and classical, kerygma is pronounced "kay-roog-ma" where the first "a" is long and the last "a" is short. Related words are kerux ("herald, preacher" [BAGD, 431]) and kerusso ("announce, make known, proclaim aloud, preach" [BAGD, 431]).

Because of the influence of the British scholar C. H. Dodd and others, kerygma has become a technical term in biblical scholarship with a special meaning. Dodd attempted to decipher the significant heart and soul of early Christian preaching by examining the sermons in the book of Acts and certain other significant NT texts which appeared to contain the preaching thrust of the early church in a nutshell (The Apostolic Preaching, 1936). Kerygma is distinguished from didache, the latter referring to "doctrine" or "teaching." Kerygma means the initial gospel proclamation designed to introduce a person to Christ and to appeal for conversion. Didache refers to the doctrinal and ethical teaching of the church into which a person needs to be grounded once they become a Christian. Of course, there is overlap in the use of these terms just as there is overlap in actual Christian practice. For example, the kerygma includes the preaching of the cross as a central element. That does not mean that the preaching of the cross does not also have a central place within didache.

The ancient kerygma as summarized by Dodd from Peter's speeches in Acts was:

  1. The Age of Fulfillment has dawned, the "latter days" foretold by the prophets.
  2. This has taken place through the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  3. By virtue of the resurrection Jesus has been exalted at the right hand of God as Messianic head of the new Israel.
  4. The Holy Spirit in the church is the sign of Christ's present power and glory.
  5. The Messianic Age will reach its consummation in the return of Christ.
  6. A appeal is made for repentance with the offer of forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, and salvation.

Christ, of course, was the center of this ancient kerygma. The cross and resurrection are crucial to the kerygmatic preaching of Christ.

Joel Stephen Williams

Return to Kerygma

 

Examination questions generally seem to require you (a) to know and be able to develop the main points of the Kerygma as identified by Dodd above in key passages from the Book of Acts, viz Peter's speeches in Acts Ch 2 and Acts Ch 10.  They also quite often mention one or two elements of the kerygma, for example, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and ask you whether you think that they are the most important elements of the Kerygma.

Here's some suggestions for material on the kerygma passages:-

1 & 2   The Jesus events are clearly portrayed throughout NT writings as the fulfilment of what God has promised to and through the nation of Israel to the world .  These promises have been given throughout the history of the nation of Israel as reported by the Torah, (Law) and the prophets.  Remember that the Law contains much history.  The decisive historical event by which the Jews identified themselves as the covenant people of God was the exodus event.  Small wonder that the Early Church quickly began to find hints of these events in the life, death and ministry of Jesus.  eg.  The Matthean birth Narratives which portray Jesus as New Moses, the canticles of Luke's birth narratives with their repeated theme of promises to the patriarchs of Israel fulfilled in Jesus.  The feeding of the 5,000 with its overtones of Moses feeding the Israelites in the desert.  Finally, the crucifixion narratives consistently emphasise that the death of Jesus also fulfils OT prophecy (see Crucifixion section)

Paul refers to the Jesus events as being 'according to the Scriptures' in the early verses of 1 Corinthians 15, stating that this was part of the tradition passed on to him. In Galatians too, he refers to the story of Sarah, Hagar and Abraham, in the early chapters of Genesis, using it as a type for God's plan to save those who have faith in Jesus outside the Law.  The most extensive exploration of the relationship of the church to the Jewish nation and its scriptures is in his letter to the Romans, where he describes the gentile membership of the church as 'a wild olive' grafted into the main tree.  Clearly the identification of the life, death and resurrection of Christ with the prophecies and theology of the Jewish Old Testament was central to the Early Church's understanding of the significance of the Jesus events, even when the membership of the church was becoming mainly gentile.

Return to top of page

3. The event without which all other elements of the kerygma would have no significance whatever is, undoubtedly the resurrection.  The resurrection is the event which demonstrates that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the One who has fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament, and is the chosen one of God.  Many men had claimed Messiahship both before and since Jesus.  But they had died, and largely their hopes had died with them. possibly to be revived again, briefly, by the succession of a member of  their family to the leadership of the movement they had started.

However, the first Christians did have a problem with the resurrection of Jesus.  It wasn't that the Jews disbelieved in bodily resurrection per se, but that they believed that it was an event linked to the eschaton.  That is, it would happen to everyone at the end of time, when God judged the earth, handing out rewards to the just and punishments to the wicked.  This Resurrection had happened to one man in the middle of time.  Indeed there are clearly indications, eg in the expression 'last days' used in Acts 2, and in the early letters of Paul, such as 1 and 2 Thessalonians, that the Early Church still believed that the Resurrection of the One meant that the Parousia was imminent.  Leaders of the Church, eg Paul, quickly realised that they were going to have to make sense of the resurrection of Jesus within a world that was clearly still infected by sin, and largely apparently unaffected by the resurrection.

This they did by exploring the spiritual significance of the resurrection to individual believers (see Ephesians, Romans, Colossians etc) - New life, a new start, a new creation, freedom from sin, constant union with God in Christ etc

Return to top of page

4. The Ascension, in which Jesus is exalted to 'God's right Hand' forms part of this process.  It is the enthronement of the Father's Viceroy, and the confirmation that Jesus is indeed 'The Anointed One'.  The phrase 'at God's Right Hand' is significant in that it denotes the executive power that Jesus now has, indicated by Hiswords recorded by the Evangelists that prayers to the God of Israel should now be made in the Name of Jesus.  For Paul and the rest of the Early Church, the proof that Jesus is in fact exalted to this place of power is  ....

Return to top of page

5.   The pouring out of the Holy Spirit  which happened on the first feast of Shavu'ot (Weeks or Pentecost) after the Resurrection.  This event, described in Acts Ch 2 (and which we shall look at in more detail later, dears) was interpreted by the Early Church as the literal fulfilment of the prophecy in Joel Ch 2.  This passage describes an anointing of power upon ordinary people, young and old, male and female, together with apocalyptic signs in the heavens.  The passage as a whole was (and is) viewed by Jews as an apocalyptic passage, and it seems pretty certain that it was this event, together with the resurrection, which encouraged many in the Early Church to believe that history as they knew it was about to come to an end.  

Return to top of page

6. The general resurrection of the dead for judgement, reward and punishment, and the Parousia of the Messiah to his earthly kingdom (the restored Israel), was about to occur.  The time would soon come when Jesus would be vindicated by God as Messiah, and those who put their faith in Jesus as Messiah would also be vindicated (proved correct).  God's anger would be directed against those who rejected Him and his Messiah.  Therefore, time was not on the side of the church, when it came to carrying out Jesus' instructions to spread the message throughout the world and make disciples.  

Return to top of page

7.7 The imperative to issue an invitation to repent  therefore becomes of prime importance to the Early Church. This invitation is recorded several times in the Book of Acts, and Paul explores it in several ways.  But its components are the same.  God's judgement is coming upon the world because of its sinful rejection of His ways and His Messiah.   God, however, has provided a way of escape from judgement, through faith in His Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.  Those who put their faith in Him will escape God's judgement, and furthermore, they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who has been released upon the world as the result and sign of Jesus' Ascension and enthronement on God's right hand.  New believers should receive water baptism as a sign of their new life, and their rejection of sin.

This invitation was directed firstly at the Jews, of course, and the earliest Christian community was established in Jerusalem under the direction of the leading disciples, Peter James and John.  Later, Jesus' half-brother James became head of the church in Jerusalem.  However, within a few years, Peter and Paul were conducting missions to gentiles, and particularly after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70,  gentiles began to form the majority of Church Members.  

Return to top of page

Return to The Vale of Tears Homepage