“Teach” or “Preach”: Is There A Difference.?

By Luther W. Martin

According to Young’s Analytical Concordance, the word didasko, is rendered “teach” 97 times in the New Testament. In similar manner, the word kerusso, was used some sixty times for preach, proclaim or publish. Another word, taleo, is translated “preach” six times. Still another word, euaggelizo, is used some fifty-four times, meaning to “preach, proclaim or bring good news”.

Some Interesting Examples

Acts 4:2 – “. . being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”

Acts 5:42- “. . And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”

Acts 15:35 – “Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.”

Acts 28:31 – “Preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ. . . .”

A Liberal Scholar – Charles H. Dodd

Fifty-some years ago, Mr. Dodd concluded that the Book of Acts, for example, was not really completely authored by Luke, but that it consisted of an eclectic text: a collection of excerpts from various sources or writers. He evolved a theory that essentially taught as follows: A spokesman can only really “preach” the gospel once to a hearer… and from then on, it is no longer “preaching” but the instruction becomes “teaching.”

Dodd further carried his theory to a point wherein he asserted that the early church had “preachers or public proclaimers” to initially present the good-news to the hearers, and then these same hearers were turned over to a “teacher” who continued their instruction, building upon what the “preacher” had first told them.

Mr. Dodd was very persuasive. Some of our own brethren have succumbed to Dodd’s theories. But interestingly, quite a number of authors of religious books now quote Dodd as their source for their articles on “Teaching and Preaching.” Even the Editor of A Theological Word Book of the Bible, Alan Richardson, quotes from Dodd, as if Dodd’s conclusions were factual rather than theoretical (pp. 171-172).

The Translator’s New Testament, as published by the British and Foreign Bible Society, credits C.H. Dodd, at the end of its glossary note on “Preach.” A half page, approximately, is devoted to Dodd’s teaching on the difference between teaching and preaching.

Another author, Josh McDowell, a denominationalist, but far less liberal than Dodd, refers to Dodd as a “form critic,” but less radical than Rudolph Bultmann or Martin Dibelius. See More Evidence That Demands A Verdict, page 187.

Mr. Dodd was a leading proponent of the idea that the author of the fourth gospel (Gospel According to John), was not the same writer as authored the First Epistle of John. He also contended that in the N.T., preachers and teachers had different duties, and that the content of their message was also different.

Dr. Robert C. Worley Of McCormick Theological Seminary

In 1967, R.C. Worley authored a book entitled: Preaching and Teaching in the Earliest Church. It was published by The Westnunster Press, Philadelphia. In a chapter entitled: “The Criticism of Dodd’s Theory,” Dr. Worley concludes:

On the basis of this study I conclude that teaching and preaching in the earliest Christian community were the same activities and had the same content in many instances. Also the activities of preaching and teaching and the content communicated in these activities were referred to and described by words other than “preaching” and “teaching”. . . (p. 86).

Some Additional New Testament Examples

Although the Apostle Paul had not yet been to Rome, he wrote in his letter to the congregation in Rome, that he was ready to “preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also” (Rom. 1:15). Here was a congregation already in existence, yet Paul was eager to preach to them. Now, according to the Dodd theory, Paul would have had to “teach” them, instead of “preach” to them.

Paul also wrote to the church in Colosse: “. . Christ in you the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom. . . ” (Col. 1:27-28). So Paul utilized announcing and proclaiming (preaching), as well as teaching or instruction.

In the twentieth chapter of Acts of the Apostles, Paul summoned the Ephesian elders and spoke to them: “. . . how I kept back nothing that was helpful to you, but declared (evangelized – LWM) it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house . . . . And indeed now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching (proclaiming – LWM) the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. . . . For I have not shunned to declare (evangelize – LWM) to you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:20-27). It appears that the Apostle Paul was not aware of the Dodd theory!

The Great Commission

When Christ gave the world-wide commission to His apostles, Matthew’s inspired record used mathetes (make disciples of), thus teach or instruct in order to produce faith and obedience. The King James Version reads: “Go ye therefore and teach all nations. . . ” (Matt. 28:19). Mark’s record of the same instruction by Jesus, used the word kerusso (to proclaim as a herald): Thus, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mk. 16:15).

One interesting point to observe in this study, is, that John the Baptizer was always described as “preaching” or “crying. ” The word for “teach(ing)” is never applied to John’s activities.

Introduction To Acts of the Apostles

Luke, in writing his introduction to the Book of Acts, made reference to his earlier work, the Gospel According to Luke, by writing: “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). So, Luke refers to all the content of the Book of Luke, when referring to Jesus’ instruction, as being that which He taught. Teaching is really a broader term than “preaching,” inasmuch as in man’s thinking, “preaching” is more of a public proclamation. . . yet it is still teaching or instruction. Private instruction is still “teaching,” but is not commonly called “preaching” or proclamation. So, teaching is a more generic term, covering all kinds of instruction.


Although men have developed ideas and theories concerning Bible teaching, there is nothing to equal Holy Scripture itself. If we will just read and study all that the Bible has to say concerning a given subject, and reach a conclusion that harmonizes with all that Scripture reveals on that subject, we will not go astray.

Guardian of Truth XXX: 9, pp. 270-271
May 1, 1986