Evangelist (εὐαγγελιστής), the name of an order or body of men included in the constitution of the Apostolical Church (q.v.). The term is applied in the New Testament to a certain class of Christian teachers who were not fixed to any particular spot, but traveled either independently, or under the direction of one or other of the apostles, for the purpose of propagating the Gospel. The absence of any detailed account of the organization and practical working of the Church of the first century leaves us in some uncertainty as to their functions and position. The meaning of the name, "The publishers of glad tidings," seems common to the work of the Christian ministry generally, yet in Eph 4:11 the "evangelists" appear, on the one hand, after the "apostles" and "prophets;" on the other, before the "pastors" and "teachers" (thus: αὐτὸς ἔδωκε τοὺς μὲν αποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους). Assuming that the apostles here, whether limited to the twelve or not, are those who were looked upon as the special delegates and representatives of Christ, and therefore higher than all others in their authority, and that the prophets were men speaking under the immediate impulse of the Spirit words that were mighty in their effects on men's hearts and consciences, it would follow that the evangelists had a function subordinate to theirs, yet more conspicuous; and so far higher than that, of the pastors who watched over a church that had been founded, and of the teachers who carried on the work of systematic instruction. This passage, accordingly, would lead us to think of them as standing between the two other groups sent forth as missionary preachers of the Gospel by the first, and as such preparing the way for the labors of the second. The same inference would seem to follow the occurrence of the word as applied to Philip in Ac 21:18. He had been one of those who had gone everywhere "preaching" (εὐαγγελιζόμενοι) the word (Ac 8:4), now in one city, now in another (Ac 8:40); but he has not the power or authority of an apostle, does not speak as a prophet himself, though the gift of prophecy belongs to his four daughters (Ac 21:9), and he exercises apparently no pastoral superintendence over any portion of the flock. The omission of evangelists in the list of 1 Corinthians 12 may be explained on the hypothesis that the nature of Paul's argument led him there to speak of the settled organization of a given local Church, which of course presupposed the work of the missionary preacher as already accomplished, while the train of thought in Eph 4:11 brought before his mind all who were in any way instrumental in building up the Church universal. It follows, from what has been said, that the calling of the evangelist is expressed by the word κηρύσσειν, "preach," rather than διδάσκειν, "teach," or παρακαλεῖν, "exhort;" it is the proclamation of the glad tidings to those who have not known them, rather than the instruction and pastoral care of those who have believed and been baptized. This is also what we gather from 2Ti 4:2,5. Timotheus is "to preach the word;" in doing this he is to fulfill " the work of an evangelist." It follows, also, that the name denotes a work rather than an order. The evangelist might or might not be a bishop-elder or a deacon. The apostles, so far as they evangelized (Ac 8:25; Ac 14:7; 1Co 1:17), might claim the title, though there were many evangelists who were not apostles. The brother "whose praise was in the Gospel", (2Co 8:18) may be looked upon as one of Paul's companions in this work, and probably known by the same name, in short, the itinerant and temporary character of their calling chiefly serves to distinguish them from the other classes of Christian laborers. In this, as in other points connected with the organization of the. Church in the apostolic age, but little information is to be gained from later writers. The name was no longer explained by the presence of those to whom it had been specially applied, and it came to be variously interpreted. Theodoret (on Eph 4:11) describes the evangelists (as they have been described above) as traveling missionaries. Chrysostom, as men who preached the Gospel; but without going everywhere (μὴ περιϊvοντες πανταχοῦ); by which he probably denotes a restricted sphere to their labors, in contrast with the world-wide commission of the apostles. The account given by Eusebius (Hist. Ecclesiastes 3:37), though somewhat rhetorical and vague, gives prominence to the idea of itinerant missionary preaching. Referring to the state of the Church in the time of Trajan, he says, "Many of the disciples of that time, whose souls the divine word had inspired with an ardent love of philosophy, first fulfilled our Savior's precept by distributing their substance among the poor. Then traveling abroad, they performed the work of evangelists (ἔργον ἐπετέλουν Εὐαγγελιστῶν), being ambitious to preach Christ, and deliver the Scripture of the divine Gospels. Having laid the foundations of the faith in foreign nations, they appointed other pastors (ποιμἑνας το καθιστάντες ἑτέρους), to whom they entrusted the cultivation of the parts they had recently occupied, while they proceeded to other countries and nations." One clause of this description indicates a change in the work, which before long affected the meaning of the name. If the Gospel was a written book, and the office of the evangelists was to read .or distribute it, then the writers of such books were κατ᾿ ἐξοχήν The evangelists. It is thus, accordingly, that Eusebius (Hist. Ecclesiastes 3:39) speaks of them, though the old meaning of the word (as in Hist. Eccl. 5:10, where he applies it to Pantaenus) is not forgotten by him. Soon this meaning so overshadowed the old that OEcumenius (Estius on Eph 4:11) has no other notion of the evangelists than as those who have written a Gospel (compare Harless on Eph 4:11). Augustine, though commonly using the word in this sense, at times remembers its earlier signification (Sermoni 99 and 246). Ambrosianus (Estius, 1.c.) identifies them with deacons. In later liturgical language the work was applied to the reader of the Gospel for the day (comp. Hooker, Ecclesiastical Polity, book 78:7, 9). In modern phraseology the term is almost exclusively applied to the writers of the canonical Gospels (q.v.). See Campbell's Lectures on Ecclesiastical History, 1:148150; Neander's History of the Planting of the Christian Church, 1:173; Middelboc, De evangelistis ecclesice apostolica (Hafn. 1779); Schaff, Apostolical Church, § 131.

Bible concordance for EVANGELISM.

Definition of evangelist

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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