What Does Kerygma Mean?

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What does kerygma mean? That is a question I am asked quite often. My web site is named Kerygma. Kerygma Books is my name for the company which published my book What is Christianity? It is a teaser name designed to provoke questioning in order to create a teachable moment.

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. An 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.

The reason this web page has been named Kerygma is that my goal here is to focus on the basic preaching of the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Some of my writings which will be included here will go beyond the basic kerygma to the didache, the church's teaching and doctrine, but kerygma is the focus. Therefore, you will find included here one whole book on the cross of Christ and another whole book on the resurrection and exaltation of Christ. Over half of the book What is Christianity? focuses on the kerygma as defined above.

It is easy to distort the Christian faith into something it is not by focusing on the lesser part of the message while ignoring the center. Hopefully this web page will preach "Christ crucified" first and foremost.

"Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation" (Mk. 16:15).

"God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation to save those who believe" (1 Cor. 1:21).

"We proclaim Christ crucified" (1 Cor. 1:23).

"For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord" (2 Cor. 4:5).

Joel Stephen Williams

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