What is the antithesis of ekklesia? For the last three posts we have struggled to come to terms with this Greek word that is normally translated as “church.” In part 1, we dealt with the meaning of the English word church and the classical Greek understanding of ekklesia. In part 2 we considered the way the ekklesia was understood by the Hebrew translators of the Greek Old Testament. Finally, in part 3, I demonstrated that “assembly of citizens,” seemed to convey the New Testament meaning of ekklesia, more clearly than “church” does. It is now time to check our understanding by examining what the ekklesia is not. Continue reading
Monthly Archives: September 2013
Translating Ekklesia: What is Church–Part 3
It turns out translating ekklesia is not as easy as it seems. In part 1 of our series we saw that the English meaning of “church” has to do with a building, even though most followers of Jesus recognize this is not what it means in the Bible. We also saw that 1st century Greeks used the word in a political context.
In part 2 we examined how ekklesia was used in the Greek Old Testament or Septuagint, quoted by Jesus and the New Testament authors. We saw that Jewish readers understood ekklesia not as an assembly of Israel upon some particular occasion, but the people of Israel as God’s people distinct from everybody else.
Since the English word “church” does not normally convey either of these ideas, our task here in part 3, is translating ekklesia into an English form that conveys the 1st century understanding. Continue reading
The Old Testament Church: What is Church–Part 2
We are now ready to look at the Old Testament Church. Well not exactly… We are going to look at how the word ekklesia (ἐκκλησία) was used in the Old Testament in hopes of understanding what it means in the New.
(As an aside I should point out that this is the first week I am using a new plugin which divides the post into pages or allows viewing as a single page. You can choose “next,” or “single page,” at the bottom of this page. Please let me know if it causes any problems.)
Last week we began our series on what is Church by looking at the English dictionary, and the Greek word ekklesia which the New Testament authors used, and is almost always translated as church.
We saw that the English word has little relation to the meaning of the word used in the New Testament. In fact “church” in English is derived from the transliteration of two Greek words meaning “a lord’s building!” Continue reading
What is Church, according to the Bible?–Part 1
What is Church? This is one of those questions to which the answer seems obvious until one starts to think seriously about the answer. Think about it… what is your answer? That building on the corner with the steeple? The body of Christ? All believers down through the ages? The people you fellowship with? All of the above? While each of these have some measure of truth depending on the context; the English word “church” bears scant resemblance to the Greek word it represents.
My last post was considerably longer than usual and generated several suggestions that I try to keep the length of my posts to a more manageable level. Unfortunately I am trying to cover topics or points of view, which are often misunderstood or poorly represented in today’s world. As a result they deserve in-depth coverage.
A case in point is today’s topic: “What is Church?” In order to do this subject justice, and keep my readers happy, (is that possible?;-) I am going to cover this as a multi-part series. In today’s post I am going to cover the origin of our English word, and introduce the Greek word which the New Testament uses: the word ekklesia (ἐκκλησία)
Those of you who have read my book know that the meaning of certain New Testament words seem to be obscured by transliteration as opposed to translation. Transliteration is simply rewriting a word from one language, using the spelling and pronunciation norms of another. Some common examples of transliterated words in the New Testament are baptism, apostle, and Christ. The Greek words baptizo, apostolos, and christos mean dip, immerse or wash; ambassador or emissary; and king, respectively. As you can see, transliteration does nothing to help a reader understand the author’s intent.
The English word church does not seem to bear any resemblance to ekklesia. As a result we might take comfort in the fact that at least it does not seem to be a transliteration, but we would be wrong. As we will see shortly Continue reading