Mar 01

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In this final article, a study of the word “church,” the Greek “ekklesia,” attention is called to the Greek scholar Erasmus (1466-1536) and how he translated the Greek “ekklesia” into Latin. In his translation of the Greek New Testament into Latin, he sometimes translated the word “ekklesia” into the Latin words, “concio,” “congregatio,” and “ecclesia.” So, what do these Latin words means?
First, the Latin word “concio” is from “con” + “cieo” and means to summon. The verb means to: bring, assemble, or urge together, collect, muster. Clearly, it does not refer to a physical structure, or authoritative body. It does not relate to the words “Catholic Church,” which is a physical authoritative body.
Second, the Latin word “congregatio” is from “con” + “greg,” (flock) and means “to gather together.” The point being this word is not limited to a “religious” usage. It might refer to a gathering of a flock of ducks. Therefore, it is unlike the modern word “church,” which is limited to a “religious” use. However, this Latin word does not relate to the words, “Catholic Church.”
Third, the word “ecclesia.” There is a real question about this word. Is it Latin, or is it Greek? It is easy to see that the only difference is the two letters, “kk” and “cc” following the first letter “e.” It does appear that all Jerome did, when he translated the Greek word “ekklesia,” was to simply change the letter “k” to “c.” This means, in our efforts to learn the meaning, we must fall back to the Greek word, “ekklesia.” This word means, a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly. This word does not give itself to the idea of authority; as do the words “Catholic Church.”
The reader may be wondering, what is all this about, and rightfully so. Let us go back to the basics here. The Greek word “ekklesia” appears 115 times in the New Testament. It is translated into our English word “church,” but in the following verses, it is translated as “assembly:”
Acts 19:32 – “Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly (ekklesia) was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together;
Acts 19:39 But if ye enquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly (ekklesia).
Acts 19:41 And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly (ekklesia).
Clearly in these three cases the word “ekklesia” has no reference to what is today known as the “church.” This means this word is translated into the English “church” 112 times. Yet, one time it has nothing to do with what is today called the “church.” It is as follows:
“This is he, that was in the church (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” (Acts 7:38).
As in the other three cases, it is easy to see the word “ekklesia” is not used in any way referring to what Jesus meant in his words: “I will build my ekklesia.” (Matt. 16:18). As Stephen was referring to the children of Israel having departed from Egypt. Therefore, the word “ekklesia” is used in reference to God’s people in the New Testament 111 times.
Yet, it must be noted, if we are to get the best understanding of the word “ekklesia,” that it is also used in the New Testament, in a few cases where it should be translated into the English word “assembly.” So, where do we find such? The following will answer our question:
1 Cor. 14:4 – He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church (ekklesia – assembly).
1 Cor. 14:12 – Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church (ekklesia – assembly)
1 Cor. 14:33 – For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches (ekklesia – assembly) of the saints.
1 Cor. 14:34 – Let your women keep silence in the churches (ekklesia – assembly): for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
1 Cor. 14:35 – And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church (ekklesia – assembly).
It should also be noted that the word “congregation” would not be the best translation of the “ekklesia” in a few verses. For instance,
1 Cor. 14: 34 – “Let your women keep silence in the churches (assemblies).”
First, Paul cannot mean that women are not allowed to speak, once they are part of the “ekklesia;” as this word is used to refer to the universal body of the saved, the “ekklesia.”
If this were the case, women would never be allowed to speak again after obeying the gospel! Therefore, Paul cannot be using the word “ekklesia” to refer to the universal “ekklesia.” Second, the word is plural, and even the English word “congregations” might not express the word clearly. For example, the Barnes congregation is the Barnes congregation on Monday, when not assembled and on Sunday when assembled together for worship. Therefore, the word “congregation” may refer to local Christians unassembled, or local Christians assembled. However, the English word “assembly,” for the most part, identifies a gathering. Though this is not always the case! Nevertheless, the word “ekklesia” is best understood in the above verses by the word assembly, or assemblies. Therefore, when translating the word “Ekklesia,” care must be given to get the best English word, be it “congregation,” or “assembly.”
The point of these articles has been to help with a better understanding of the Greek word “ekklesia,” and the English word “church.” The word “church” has been separated from other words and is used in a religious sense; whereas this was not the case with the word which was the Holy Spirit’s choice when putting inspiration in the writers of the New Testament. It was never the Holy Spirit’s intention to convey any universal “ekklesia” authority! The “church,” the “ekklesia” never establishes authority; no one on earth today speaks for Christ. The “church” is under and submits to the authority of Christ, as written in the New Testament!
The “church,” the “ekklesia,” is built upon the authority of Christ; the New Testament being the foundation of the “church,” the “ekklesia;” and she only works through local autonomous bodies!

— Frank R. Williams

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