Translating ekklesia can be a puzzle.
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
This is NOT the Old Testament Church!
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
“Church” can be confusing
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
The rulers of the nations…
The New Testament makes clear that the followers of King Jesus make up a distinct and different nation. In past posts we have examined how being born into this new nation places claims on our allegiance and transforms our national identity. This transformation does not eliminate the vestiges of our previous national cultures, but it does start a transformation that over time reveals the mark of Christian culture. We will consider a number of these marks, but today we look at the mark of servant leaders.
It is often argued that there is no such thing as a “Christian culture.” Rather it is held that any culture can be “Christianized.” I can see the truth in that statement, but it is usually part of an argument that does not recognize the existence of the distinct Christian nation we have discussed.The fact is that the Christian nation does indeed have its own distinct culture, and we will examine some of its marks in future posts.
It is important to remember the distinction between nation and State. A nation is a people group with a distinct sense of identity–a culture. A State is the governmental authority over a region. In the North American melting pot, we can see the influence of many cultures. The now diminishing impact of the New Testament has led many to mistakenly identify some North American States with the Christian nation. The United States, Canada, and other States in the world which give evidence of a Christian cultural influence should not be confused with the Christian nation itself.
In Douglas Adams’ sci-fi spoof The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy we are introduced to a civilization which has determined that no one who has any desire to rule is fit to do so. As a result, the method of choosing the the Galactic president is to decide who wants the position least. This sets up the humorous plot line wherein Zaphod Beeblebrox is hunted down in order to enforce his assumption of a position he does not want. Continue reading
In my last post I introduced an idea that, no doubt, seemed alarming, and possibly heretical to a number of readers. (If you have not read it, I strongly suggest that you do so now, by clicking this link: The Enemy Within; Why Christian allegiance Matters.) In it I made the claim that being a committed follower of King Jesus in some way makes one unfit to serve in the national governments of this world. Conversely, I claim that participation in this world’s systems, almost always, requires a betrayal of our king, and subsequent loss of spiritual authority.
If you were raised thinking Christians in politics are the norm, and have never heard such things before, I know it is going to take more than a few blog posts to convince you otherwise. If for no other reason than curiosity, I hope you will continue reading cautiously, with your mind (and Bible) open, and your heart sensitive to your Lord’s leading.
I closed the last post by telling you that I would present evidence to support the fact that for the first three centuries of her existence, the view I am presenting was the norm. Even more astounding I will show you that the view commonly held by Christians in the United States today (maybe even your view), is almost identical to that of the enemies of the early church. In order to do so, I am honored to present today’s guest blogger, Origen of Alexandria (c.185 AD-.254 AD). Continue reading
In Are You a Radical Fish? Part 1, I asked the question: why did Rome find it necessary to persecute the primitive Church? I pointed out that the Roman Empire was very diverse and accepting when it came to matters of religion, and made a habit of incorporating the faiths of conquered peoples into their own.
We should remember that even the Jews, as long as they were not engaged in active rebellion, were granted religious freedom under the Caesars. What made the primitive Church different – what do you think? Why did Rome repeatedly, at different times and places, decide to persecute Christians – or crucify Jesus, for that matter?
The time has come for me to share my answer…. Continue reading