A preacher of the gospel or an author of one of the four Gospels. The English word comes, through the Latin evangelista, from the Greek noun ε[symbol omitted]αγγελιστής, from the verb ε[symbol omitted]αγγελíζεσθαι (to announce good news). Evangelist is a title of an activity (not of an office) of early Christian missionaries and proclaimers of the gospel (ε[symbol omitted]αγγέλιον, literally "good news"). Although the words ε[symbol omitted]αγγέλιον and ε[symbol omitted]αγγελíζεσθαι occur frequently in the New Testament, the word εύαγγελιστής is found there only three times: (1) Acts 21.8, concerning philip the deacon; (2) in Eph 4.11, where the word appears after "apostles" and "prophets" and before "pastors" and "teachers" and where, therefore, it refers to Christian missionaries who have received a special charism; and (3) in 2 Tm 4.5 concerning Timothy (cf. 1 Thes 3.2, where Timothy is called "a servant of God in the gospel of Christ"). The work of the evangelist consisted more in the proclamation of the glad tidings of Christ's Redemption to those who had not yet heard them than in the instruction and pastoral care of those who had already accepted the faith and been baptized. It was Christ who first announced the glad tidings of salvation (Mt 4.23; 11.5; etc.) and who sent the Apostles for the same purpose (Rom 1.1; 1 Cor 1.17); later the term evangelist was applied to those men whom the Church sent as missionaries to preach the same good news.
The use of the word Evangelist in reference to the authors of the four Holy gospels dates from the third century; it is thus used by St. hippolytus of rome in speaking of St. Luke (On Antichrist 56), and by tertullian (Against Praxeas 21.23) and St. dionysius of alexandria (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 7.25.8) in speaking of St. John.
Although originally "the four living creatures" of Ez 1.10 and Rv 4.7 had nothing to do with the four Evangelists, the application of these symbolic figures to the four Evangelists began as early as the second century, apparently by St. irenaeus (Her. 3.11.8). At first there was some inconsistency in the application of the individual symbols; but by the end of the fourth century, thanks especially to the great authority of St. jerome, the following relationship was fixed: the human-faced figure represented Matthew, because of Matthew's genealogy of the humanity of Christ; the lion-faced figure represented Mark, because of Mark's mention of the voice of the Baptist in the desert; the ox-faced figure represented Luke, because of Luke's mention of the Jewish priest Zachary; and the eagle-faced figure represented John, because of the soaring flight of John's prologue.
In Christian iconography the portrayal of the four Evangelists by these four symbols, usually surrounding the figure of Christ in glory, has been common since the fifth century, both in monumental mosaics in the churches and in miniatures in the Gospel books. However, there has been a concomitant tradition in Christian art of showing the four Evangelists in fully human form.
Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963) 705. g. friedrich, g. kittel Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Stuttgart 1935–) 2:734–735. j. schmid, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiberg 1957–65) 3:1253–54. Iconography. l. rÉau, Iconographie de l'art chrétien (Paris 1955–59) 3.1:476–480. k. kÜnstle, Ikonographie der christlichen Kunst (Freiburg 1926–28) 1:609–612. j. h. emminghaus, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiberg 1957–65) 3:1254–55.
[m. j. hunt]
e·van·ge·list / iˈvanjəlist/ • n. 1. a person who seeks to convert others to the Christian faith, esp. by public preaching. ∎ a layperson engaged in Christian missionary work. ∎ a zealous advocate of something: he is an evangelist of junk bonds.2. the writer of one of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John): St. John the Evangelist.DERIVATIVES: e·van·ge·lis·tic / iˌvanjəˈlistik/ adj.
1. In the New Testament (e.g. Ephesians 4. 11), an itinerant missionary.
2. Any of the authors of the four canonical gospels: Sts Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This usage dates from the 3rd cent. The four evangelists are traditionally symbolized by a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle, respectively, on the basis of Ezekiel 10. 14 and Revelation 4. 6–10. The four signs are known as (Gk.) tetramorphs.