The solemn and public proclamation of salvation in Christ made in the name of God to non-Christians; it was accompanied by an appeal to signs and wonders to dispose the hearers to faith, conversion, and a return to God.
New Testament and Early Church. In the New Testament the word is used in its verbal form (κηρυσσε[symbol omitted]ν) some 61 times to describe the proclamation of the kingdom of God and of the "gospel of God, which he had promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures" (Rom 1.2). Kerygma (κάρυγμα) was employed in an almost technical sense by the New Testament authors to signify the manner in which an authorized preacher, kērux (κ[symbol omitted]ρυξ), announced the truth that "the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Mt 12.28; Lk 11.20). The message consists essentially in proclaiming Christ dead and risen from the dead (cf. Rom 8.34) as the son of god "who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from the wickedness of this present world" (Gal 1.4).
The content of the kerygma is the gospel of Christ (cf. Mk 1.14), what is to be believed (Rom 10.18), or simply the logos, or word (Acts 17.11; 2 Tm 4.2). Jesus had announced the coming of the kingdom with His call for repentance (Mk 1.15). The central object of the apostolic kerygma was Christ (Acts 8.5; 19.13; 1 Cor 1.23), in whom, according to the prophecies, is salvation (2 Cur1.19–20). It was the cross with the implication of the Resurrection (1 Cor 1.23; Rom 8.17) and Christ's return as judge (Acts 10.42).
The earliest exponents of the Christian faith had worked out a distinct way of presenting the fundamental convictions of their religion. The Christian preacher thought of himself as the divinely authorized announcer, or herald, of very important news after the manner of John the Baptist (Mt 3.1–2; Mk 11.30–33). The preacher recounted the life and work of Jesus Christ in brief form, demonstrating that in Christ's conflicts, sufferings, death, and Resurrection, the divinely guided history [see salvation history (heilsgeschichte)] of mankind had reached its climax. God Himself had now most personally intervened in the history of mankind to inaugurate His kingdom on earth. This announcement was bracketed between that of the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies and the new Christian community's, or Church's, eschatological destiny in the Second Coming of the Savior to reader judgment. The preacher sought to convince his hearers that they were now confronted by God Himself as represented in His kingdom and that they stood liable to immediate and inescapable judgment. They had only to accept His invitation to embark on a new life wherein through God's mercy they would be unburdened of past delinquencies and have the opportunity of enjoying a new relationship with God, in the Lord Christ Jesus.
This apostolic kerygma is exemplified in the speech attributed to Peter on Pentecost (Acts 2.14–39; cf. 4.812), in which the Apostle, appealing to "what was spoken through the prophet," described Jesus of Nazareth as a man approved by God, who had been "delivered up by the settled purpose and foreknowledge of God." He was crucified by the hands of lawless men but was raised by God from death and made lord and Christ; exalted by the right hand of God, He poured forth through the Holy Spirit what was seen and heard. This was followed by an exhortation to repeat and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of sins.
A similar formula is revealed in St. Paul's letter to the Romans (1.1–4; 2.16; 8.34; 10.8–9). Paul announces the "gospel of God, which he had promised beforehand through his prophets," concerning the Son, Jesus Christ, who was from the seed of David; who died and was raised from the dead; who was declared Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness; who is at the right hand of God; and through whom God will judge the secrets of men. It was completed with the assurance: "For if thou confess with thy mouth that Jesus is the Lord, and believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Rom 10.9).
Dogmatic Theology. The modern attempt to reintroduce the kerygmatic element into the study and teaching of theology centers on the proclamation of the mystery of the faith as an invitation to direct commitment to Christ, to efficacious and dynamic actualization. This is in contrast to that kind of systematic study which focuses more contemplatively on a series of topics, or concepts. The latter is necessary as a safeguard of orthodoxy and for the fashioning of a structure to encompass the full content of the faith and to serve as a basis of theological development, but it sometimes tends to static conceptualism. Kerygmatic theology emphasizes charismatic witness under the immediate stimulus of the Holy Spirit to the dynamic presence of Christ in the Church.
The kerygma may indicate the act of proclamation or the thing proclaimed, i.e., the content of the kerygma, or both, so that in some manner the past salvific event becomes present as a call to faith and obedience. K. Rahner has brought together all the notes of kerygma cited above. It is the living proclamation of the word of God in the Church by a divinely (through the Church) empowered and designated preacher, in such a way that this word—uttered by the preacher in the strength of the Spirit unto faith, hope, and charity as an evangelical offer of salvation and as a power that binds and judges—makes itself present with the actuality of the "now" presence characteristic of salvation history in Christo Jesu, from the beginning to the end (of time). This word the hearer, with the strength of the same Spirit, can receive in faith and love, the spoken and the heard having become a word-event.
Kerygma finds its widest expression in the prophetic ministry of the whole body of the Church, most commonly expressed in preaching. It attains its highest signification in the Church's sacramental (and liturgical life, where word and action join, and here especially in the Eucharistic celebration (1 Cor 11.26).
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[f. x. murphy/
e. f. malone]