Feb 22

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The word “church” is not a word used by the inspired writers of the New Testament! It is not a true translation of the Greek word “ekklesia.” Of course, you are saying, the writers of the New Testament wrote in Greek and the word “church” is an English word. However, there is more to the story than this simple thought. This English word conveys thoughts and brings to mind what the inspired writers never intended when they wrote the word “ekklesia” in the inspired text! This is also true when Jesus said: “I will build my ekklesia” (Matt. 16:18); he was not talking about building what is now known as a “church.”
The Greek word “ekklesia,” and what it really means was not acceptable as early as the time of Jerome (340-420). Jerome translated the Greek New Testament and what is known as the “Old Latin,” into Latin, near the end of the third and start of the fourth centuries A.D. His translation became known as the Latin Vulgate. It needs to be remembered, the language of the Roman Empire, was changing from Greek to Latin during the time Jesus was crucified. Recall that a superscription was written and place over the head of Jesus: “in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS” (Luke 23:38). This reveals the change in language in the Roman Empire. Over time, the Vulgate would become the accepted version, and equal to the Old Latin Version. In fact, Pope Gregory the Great did just this in the 6th century and by the 12th century the Vulgate was the common version in the Catholic Church. The point here, which made necessary the brief history, is what Jerome did when coming to the Greek word “ekklisia.” Did he translate it into Latin? It appears he did not! He just used the Latin spelling, “ecclesia.” For Example in Acts 8:1, the Latin says “facta est autem in illa die persecutio magna in ecclesia quae erat Hierosolymis et omnes dispersi sunt per regiones Iudaeae et Samariae praeter apostolos.” Here only the spelling is slightly changed, from “ekklesia” to “ecclesia.” But, the question: Why not translate the Greek word into Latin?
It was not due to a scarcity of Latin words for assembly, or congregation, as “contio” and “comitia” were often translated into Greek by ekklesia, when translating from Latin to Greek; and when the Latin is translated into English, the translator would have used the words “assembly” or “congregation” for the Latin “conito.” These Latin words were commonly used when referring to an assembly. It would not do for Jerome to translate the word “ekklesia” into the Latin, “contio, or “comitia” for these words mean, assembly. Remember, the word “ekklesia” is not used in the New Testament only a religious term (Acts 19:32, 39). But, the word “ekklseia” had taken on just such a use by the time of Jerome; as in the “Catholic Ekklseia” – the Catholic Church! However, the word “ekklesia” was never used in the Greek world as a title, for anything, let alone a religious group, as it was during the time of Jerome; such as the “Catholic Ekklesia.” Therefore, it would not do for Jerome to translate the word “ekklesia” into the Latin, “contio, or “comitia” for these words mean, assembly. It would never do to have the “Catholic Assembly.” You see, the word “ekklesia” had taken on a religious title, and stood for an origination of authority, by the time of Jerome (347 – 420 A.D.)!
It should also be kept in mind, even by the end of the first century, the great apostasy (2 Thess. 2:3-10) of which Paul wrote was in the works! The title, “Catholic Ekklesia,” was used as early as the second century. It was done to emphasize the universal scope. The word “catholic” coming from the Greek “katholikos” and means “universal.” Now understand, there is nothing wrong with talking, or writing, about the universal “ekklesia.”. When Paul wrote to Timothy, he did just this, but did so without using the word “universal.” He wrote: “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the ekkllesia (church) of the living God,…” (1 Tim. 3:15). The singular “house of God, which is the ekklesia of the living God,” is referring to all children of God; thus, the one universal “house of God,” the “one body” (Eph. 4:4).
In conclusion, let us recall William Tyndale and his translation of the Greek New Testament into English. He consistently translated the Greek “ekklesia” into the English “congregation” or “assembly.” Now, do you remember what happened to him? He was convicted of heresy by the Catholics, executed by strangulation (1536), and later his body was burnt at the stake. Why? Because he dared translate the Greek “ekklesia” into the English “congregation;” thus, cutting all ties of the Catholic Church with the New Testament! The challenge is sent out to each reader, go on the internet and search the Greek word “ekklesia.”

— Frank R. Williams

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