What is the pristine gospel? What is the gospel that the first century saints heard and understood? Could it be possible that the gospel that we have today is a "different gospel," and a "distorted gospel?" Well, let's look at the gospel first mentioned. Genesis 3:15 NASB "And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel." Yes, this is the first gospel proclamation. He served Satan notice... that though he/Satan would be able to bite at the heels of humanity... humanities seed would eventually crush his head. Moving forward, God presented the gospel to Abraham in this way; Genesis 12:3 NASB "And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." These are general promises that are explained in the New Testament. Galatians 3:16 NASB "Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ." So we see that the gospel was the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ the promised seed of Abraham.
I just opened my HCSB Reference Bible that I keep on my desk, and there are 1176 pages in it of mostly all scripture verses. There are 920 chapters in the Old Testament and 260 chapters in the New Testament making a total of 1180 chapters in the bible. There are 23,195 verses in the Old Testament and 7,957 verses in the New Testament for a total of 31,152 verses in the bible. Anyone would have to admit that is a lot of material to wrap your mind around.
All of that was written at least two thousand years ago, and much of it long before that. It was written to a different time and a completely different culture. Add to this, century upon century of millions of pages written to interpret what the bible says, with literally tens of thousands of people writing the interpretation. Further, of the interpretation, much if not most of it was written with the view that the scripture was written mainly to their time and culture. It should not be hard to believe that the gospel as it has been handed down to us is distorted. In fact, in the opposite vane, it would not be sensible to believe that it wasn't. If during Paul's time, the gospel was being distorted by people who had just heard it, how much more is it logical that it would be distorted as passed down from generation to generation. Actually it would only be common sense that this were so.
Going back to the source:
The logical thing to do then would be go back to the original first century writings and, try to read what is said, but also to read between the lines with an understanding of historical context. When one does that, a different perception comes to the fore. When I mention historical context I mean the following:
- What were the expectations of the intended readers?
- What did the intended readers believe at the time of the writing and was it meant to reinforce what they believed, or was it a correction?
- Who had the intended readers held up as authorities before the writing?
- What was the cultural climate, and how did it affect their behavior?
- What did the intended readers see as authoritative?
- What were the accepted and unaccepted norms for the intended readers?
- What was the political, social, and financial environment of the intended readers?