Word of the Week
June 25, 2022
Kērussō: The Original Social Media
Preach the word: be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
2 Timothy 4:2
In colonial America, the quickest way to spread an important message was through the town crier. He would mount a street corner and shout the latest news about government edicts or upcoming events. The details would come out in the newspapers, but the people got the news first from the booming voice of the town crier.
Ancient Greece had its own version of the town crier called the kērux. These Greek heralds held a place of high respect as the official messengers of the rulers. They carried a special staff to identify them as members of the royal court. They summoned soldiers to battle and announced the meetings of the city assembly. They were often sent as ambassadors to carry messages to the leaders of other countries, and they enjoyed a diplomatic immunity, operating under the protection of the gods and the government.
This history forms the backdrop for one of the main New Testament words for preaching, offering insights for all of us who proclaim the message of the gospel.
The verb that describes the work of a kērux is kērussō, which appears in your English Bible as “preach” or “proclaim.” It occurs 61 times in the New Testament. By the first century, the idea of a herald had broadened beyond the role of a government spokesman, but you could be sure that it involved a public proclamation of some kind.
John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness proclaiming the need to repent ready for the coming of God’s kingdom (Matthew 3:1; Mark 1:7).
Jesus began His ministry by proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). He preached in the synagogues and in the towns about the good news of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 11:1).
The apostle Paul summarizes his ministry as one of “preaching the kingdom of God” (Acts 20:25; 28:31).
When Jesus healed a leper, the newly cleansed man proclaimed the news to all his neighbors (Mark 1:45) and the man who had been freed from a multitude of demons proclaimed Christ in the whole region where he lived (Mark 5:20).
The Lord sent His disciples out to proclaim His message to the villages of Galilee (Mark 3:14).
In each case, someone is spreading the news about Christ and His kingdom – publicly and vocally.
The word kērussō sometimes shows up in a different setting. An angel in God’s throne room issued a call for someone to open the seals on a book (Revelation 5:2). The Jewish teachers preached the laws of Moses (Acts 15:21). However, almost every use of kērussō is a proclamation of the Christian message.
It is no surprise that Paul instructed Timothy to “kērussō the word” in 2 Timothy 4:2. After all, anyone who is living in the “difficult times” that Paul described in chapter 3 needs to grab tightly to the totally-true, God-breathed Scriptures that the Lord has provided so we can know the truth. The command to proclaim the word applies to all of us, who function as heralds carrying the message of our King.
The ancient Greek heralds were sent to represent their monarch by bringing messages to anyone he chose. Their role was seldom to act on their own initiative. Instead, they just delivered the message, asked a few questions, and reported back for further instructions. Their task was to speak without fear and without distorting the message.
It’s a role that makes sense for followers of Jesus who represent Him in the world around us today. The town crier in ancient Greece and early America was the equivalent of today’s social media, the focal point for the latest news. We have the privilege of being God’s heralds today, His chosen media for announcing His truth.
Kērussō is not the only word for “preach” in the New Testament. You are even more likely to find the word euaggelizō, which means “to preach the good news, bring a good message.” This word occurs 54 times and the noun euaggelion (“gospel, good news”) occurs 76 times. Both words describe the act of sharing God’s truth, but with a slightly different emphasis. Euaggelizō has a built-in idea of the nature of our message: the good news of the gospel. Kērussō focuses not so much on the content of the message, but on how we communicate it.
“I look into a dry old book that looks like a telephone directory gone mad – we call it a lexicon – and we find . . . .” (A. W. Tozer, Renewed Day by Day. December 5 entry. )
- I can sympathize with Tozer. A Greek lexicon doesn’t make for easy reading, and young people today may not understand the reference to a telephone directory! Perhaps a modern equivalent would be asking someone to read the computer coding that drives their favorite video game – nothing in the end but an endless string of 1s and 0s. Hard to read, but immensely useful. That’s how to look at Greek language tools. It takes some effort to use them, but the payoff is great.
One of the key themes in Scripture is the great gift of redemption. Next week we will do a quick comparison of the various words for “redeem.”
©Ezra Project 2022