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Kerygma or the story of a word that got too big

Celine Rohmer

Translation Canon Tony Dickinson

The word kerygma (which comes from Greek) doesn’t belong solely to theology. It is a common noun which didn’t wait for the New Testament writers in order to make sense. It means “proclamation” and means very concretely the announcement of news, made with a loud voice by a town crier. We writers have used it to name the fact of announcing the good news (literally “gospel”). Let us still hang on to four characteristic elements of kerygma from its secular origins: it is the announcement of something to come, it presupposes a higher authority, it includes a public dimension, and it passes through a spokesperson who does not control it.
The word becomes technical and through metonymy denotes not only the announcement but its content. The kerygma is the expression of the Christian faith whose essence it expresses. In different places in the New Testament, so-called “kerygmatic” formulae emerged in this way, among which the death and resurrection of Christ constitute the hard core. In this way the apostles, true heralds of the Gospel, offer a condensed account of their faith in Jesus recognised as Christ (e.g. Peter in Acts 2:14-41, 10:34-43 or Paul in Romans 4:25 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-7).
But the kerygma is not a message. It is a proclamation, designed to bear witness to those who hear it, of the decisive intervention of God in the world through the event of the coming of Jesus Christ. The evangelists understood that, even though they gave no content to the word: it is not a catechism but the very movement of God toward the human being. It is a word which has become living and which links together the higher authority which initiates it, the event of Christ which incarnates it, and the individual who welcomes it. If the word “kerygma” has become big, it’s through having been force-fed by theories which seek to contain the word which endlessly escapes them. The freedom of the Gospel , that is what “kerygma” means.

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a été pasteur à Amsterdam et en Région parisienne. Il s’est toujours intéressé à la présence de l’Évangile aux marges de l’Église. Il anime depuis 17 ans le site Internet Protestants dans la ville.

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