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Church or Assembly ?

By Chuck Henry
chuck.henry@sbcglobal.net
http://www.halleluyahfellowship.com
rev. 9/25/2012

 

 

Table of Contents

 

Some Quick Facts about the Word “Church”

Ekklesia: An Assembly of People

Ekklesia: The Congregation of Israel

Ekklesia: A Body of Believers

Meaning and Origin of the Word “Church”

Definition

Etymology

Conclusion

 

 

Some Quick Facts about the Word “Church”

 

The word “church” (singular) appears 77 times in 76 verses in the KJV, with all occurrences being in the newer writings only (Source: QuickVerse Bible software).

 

The word “churches” (plural) appears 37 times in 36 verses in the KJV, with all occurrences being in the newer writings only (Source: QuickVerse Bible software).

 

Every single time, the word “church” is translated from Strong’s Greek word number 1577, which is the Greek word ekklesia.

 

Strong’s G1577. ekklesia, ek-klay-see'-ah; from a comp. of G1537 and a der. of G2564; a calling out, i.e. (concr.) a popular meeting, espec. a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Chr. community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both):--assembly, church.

 

Ekklesia even appears in the English dictionary as the word, “ecclesia” (i klē’zhi ә). Notice the definition and etymology (word history) that follows from the World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary

 

ecclesia:  1. a political assembly of the citizens of ancient Athens. 2. an assembly. 3. a congregation. 4. a church. [< Late Latin ecclēsia < Greek ekklēsíā church; (originally) an assembly < ekkaleîn call out < ex- out + kaleîn call].

 

As you can see, both Strong’s and the English dictionary agree that ekklesia refers to people who are called out to an assembly.

 

The word “churches” is also translated from ekklesia every single time except once. It appears in the phrase “robbers of churches” in Acts 19:37, which is translated from the Greek word hierosulos (G2417). We will take a further look at Acts 19 in the next section of this study.

 

 

Ekklesia: An Assembly of People

 

Please keep in mind that every time the word “church” is encountered in the KJV, it is translated from the Greek word ekklesia. Only three times did the translators of the KJV translate ekklesia as anything else. Oddly enough, all three of those occurrences are contained in Acts chapter 19, and in all three of those occurrences, the translators chose to use the word “assembly.”

 

Acts 19:24-41 (KJV)

24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen;

25 Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.

26 Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands:

27 So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.

28 And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.

29 And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.

30 And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not.

31 And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.

32 Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly [G1577 ekklesia] was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.

33 And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people.

34 But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.

35 And when the townclerk had appeased the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter?

36 Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly.

37 For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches [G2417 hierosulos, hee-er-os'-oo-los; from G2411 and G4813; a temple-despoiler:--robber of churches], nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.

38 Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another.

39 But if ye inquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly [G1577 ekklesia].

40 For we are in danger to be called in question for this day’s uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse.

41 And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly [G1577 ekklesia].

 

In review, every time that the translators of the KJV translated the word ekklesia, they translated it as either “church” or “churches” with the exception of the three times shown above. This can be easily verified using a work called the Englishman’s Concordance. For a given Strong’s word number (Greek word number 1577, ekklesia, in our current study), the Englishman’s Concordance will give you every verse in which the word appears and show how it was translated.

 

Only in these three instances, all within Acts 19, was ekklesia translated using a different word – the word “assembly” instead of “church” or “churches.” Why was the Greek word ekklesia not translated as “church” here? I believe it stands out as rather obvious that it was against the translators’ bias to translate ekklesia as “church” here because this was speaking of an assembly of pagans. They had reserved the word “church” to reference an assembly of righteous believers. However, as we can see, they were not consistent with their handling of the word ekklesia. They only chose to translate it as “church” when it fit the agenda. Consequently, an artificial concept has been manufactured with the use of the word “church.”

 

 

Ekklesia: The Congregation of Israel

 

Interestingly, the KJV translators also referred to the assembly of Israel in Old Testament times as a “church”—

 

Acts 7:37-38 (KJV)

37 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall Yahweh your Mighty One raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.

38 This is he, that was in the church [G1577 ekklesia] in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.

 

That this refers to the assembly of Israel in Old Testament times further shows that the Greek word ekklesia simply means an assembly of people. It is not limited to believers in New Testament times. Furthermore, it does not refer to a building.

 

Another text revealing this same thing is found in Hebrews 2:11-12 —

 

Heb 2:11-12 (KJV)

11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,

12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church [G1577 ekklesia] will I sing praise unto thee.

 

Verse 12 is a quote from Psalm 22:22 —

 

Psa 22:22 (KJV)

I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation [H6951 qahal] will I praise thee.

 

This further demonstrates that the KJV translators were aware that a congregation was being referred to, but chose to use the word “church” in Hebrews 2:12, even though this is a direct quote from Psalm 22:22, where they chose to use the word “congregation.”

 

 

Ekklesia: A Body of Believers

 

Just as the body of people in ancient Israel was Yahweh’s assembly of people, so it is with the body of Messiah. The idea hasn’t changed. Please notice the following Scriptures—

 

Eph 1:22-23 (KJV)

22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church [G1577 ekklesia],

23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

 

Col 1:18 (KJV)

And he [Messiah] is the head of the body, the church [G1577 ekklesia]: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

 

 

Meaning and Origin of the Word “Church”

 

Definition

 

“Church,” from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (online):

 

1: a building for public and especially Christian worship

2: the clergy or officialdom of a religious body

3 often capitalized: a body or organization of religious believers: as

   a: the whole body of Christians

   b: denomination <the Presbyterian church>

   c: congregation

4: a public divine worship <goes to church every Sunday>

5: the clerical profession <considered the church as a possible career>

 

URL: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/church

Accessed: 4/23/2011

 

“Church,” from the World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary (first 3 definitions):

 

  1. a building for public Christian worship or religious services
  2. public Christian worship or religious service in a church
  3. all Christians; the whole body of believers in Christ collectively

 

World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary. Chicago: Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, 1963. Pg. 352.

 

Notice that the leading definition in each of these dictionaries states that the word “church” refers to a building, but as we have seen, that is not an accurate definition of ekklesia, which is an assembly of people. When we read “church” in our Bibles, what is actually being spoken of is the ekklesia, or “assembly.”

 

Etymology

 

Further discrepancy arises when doing a study of the word origin (etymology) of the word “church”—

 

Etymology of the word “church,” from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (online):

 

Middle English chirche, from Old English cirice, ultimately from Late Greek kyriakon, from Greek, neuter of kyriakos of the lord, from kyrios lord, master; akin to Sanskrit śūra hero, warrior. First Known Use: before 12th century.

 

URL: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/church

Accessed: 4/21/2011

 

Etymology of the word “church,” from the World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary:

 

[Old English cirice < Vulgar Latin cyriaca < Greek kyriakón (dôma) the Lord’s (house) < kyrios master <  kyros power].

 

World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary. Chicago: Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, 1963. Pg. 353.

 

The translators of the Bible translated the Greek word ekklesia as “church,” yet the etymology of the word “church” is shown to go back to kyriakon, a completely different Greek word!

 

 

 

The etymological evidence shows that the word “church” goes back to the Greek kyriakon. Thus, the word “church” comes from a completely different Greek word than what is found in the Biblical text (kyriakon as compared to ekklesia). The evidence shows that the translators were biased in their handling of the word ekklesia, which has created a false understanding of ekklesia -- an artificial and incorrect concept has been created with the use of the word “church.” An ekklesia is an “assembly” of people.

 

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