What were the Motivations for the Use of the Word “Church,” in the New Testament

When I was a kid of about 17 I had just finished reading the Old Testament, and starting on the New Testament.  When I first read the proclamation by our Lord Jesus, “Upon This Rock will I build MY CHURCH,” I felt like something just did not seem right with that word. It seemed like it did not flow from all that I had read previously in the OT.  I did realise that the OT was translated from Hebrew, and the NT was translated from Greek.  So I recognised that maybe that difference may have been what the problem was.  Then as I read in the Gospels, and The Acts of the Apostles, they were going to Synagogue, and going to the Temple, something did not seem right to me once again.  I really did not have a thorough understanding at that time of The Jewishness of The First Church.  I knew Jesus and His disciples were Jewish, but I did not understand the depth of their Jewishness, or what it was to be a Palestinian Jew of the First Century.  I wondered where this Word, Church, came from?  It seemed out of place to me.  At that time when I read the Gospels I did not realise that they were written from 68 to 120 AD, and that Acts was written sometime between 90 and 140 AD, and they were referring back, way back, to about 26 to 33 AD.  It seemed to me when He said “…I will build My “Church,” that He was going to start a New Religion, something separate from what I had read previously. Well I have a learned a lot since then, but it all started with my first complete reading of the Bible, and what a rich blessing it was for me. I did not realise all the while at that time, that God was laying a foundation for me!  This article immediately below is very, very, good on the how, and why, the Word “Church,” was used instead of the word “Assembly,” which is the correct word.  The article also provides a historical continuity for, and an etymology, of the Word “Church.”

Cooper P. Abrams, III


“When the Bible was first translated into English the concept of a universal church was already in existence in the form of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches of that day. The word “church” was first used by Theodore Beza in 1556, a Protestant, who followed John Calvin at Geneva, Switzerland. As a Presbyterian, Beza believed in the idea of a catholic church and its hierarchal form of government and therefore chose to support this false concept by using the word “church” instead of “assembly.” The reason is obvious in that the use of the word “congregation” or “assembly” would not support his church’s hierarchical form of church government. William Whittingham’s Testament of 1557 followed Beza’s usage of “church” and was actually the first edition of the Geneva Bible and was a revision of the Tyndale New Testament.”

In the New Testament era, society used such words as thiasos and synagoge to denote fellowships. More particular Brown says that the word synagogewas used to denote the place of meetings.(5)

The Translation of the Greek Word “Ekklesia” as “church” in the English Bible and its Ramifications.
Cooper P. Abrams, III
*All Rights Reserved
(To see footnotes click on (#))

            The purpose of this paper is to show that the early translators of the English Bible mistranslated the word “ekklesia” using the English word “church” instead of “assembly” or “congregation.” This translation has helped promote the false doctrine of a universal church and a hierarchical authority over the local congregation. Showing how this translation has adversely affected the proper understanding of the biblical doctrine of the church will demonstrate the absolute necessity of translating the text literally and rejecting the influence of any particular church’s theology.

[Please note that the use of the word “church” does not mean that the Bible has an error. It is common knowledge that the Greek word from which it was translated is “ekklesia.” Further the word “church” is used in modern English to denote a local congregation or assembly as well as buildings and denominations. The problem, as this article points out, is that word “ekklesia” would have been better translated “assembly” or “congregation” and in doing so the false teaching of a universal or invisible church would have been avoided. The reason for the article is to uphold the original meaning and use of the word as God intended.]

    The English word “church” has various meanings. Webster gives the following definitions for the word church.

1. a building for public Christian worship. 2. a religious service in such a building. 3. (sometimes cap.) a. the world body of Christian believers; Christendom. b. any major division of his body; a Christian denomination. 4. a Christian congregation. 5. organized religion as distinguished from the state. 6. (cap) a. The Christian before the reformation. b. the Roman Catholic Church. 7. the profession of an ecclesiastic -V.C. 8. to perform a church service of thanksgiving for (a woman after child birth). [Go RI(a)on (DOA) the Lord’s house).(1)
Today the word church has a wide variety of meanings from referring to a building to performing a religion service. Although we need to understand the modern use of the word it is of little significance in understanding the use of the word the New Testament. It is essential that we understand its original meaning as it was used in New Testament times. In order to establish a New Testament church we must first know what the word “church” means in Scripture.

In our English Bible the Greek word, “ekklesia” is translated in most places “church.” The word “ekklesia” is found in one hundred and fifteen places in the New Testament. It is translated in English one hundred and thirteen times “church” and the remaining times it is translated “assembly.” In classical Greek the word “ekklesia” meant “an assembly of citizens summoned by the crier, the legislative assembly.”(2) The word as used in the New Testament is taken from the root of this word, which simply means to “call out.” In New Testament times the word was exclusively used to represent a group of people assembled together for a particular cause or purpose. It was never used exclusively to refer to a religious meeting or group.

    An examination of the Greek word “ekklesia” reveals that the word is properly translated into English as the “assembly” or “congregation.” It is used to refer to a group of persons that are organized together for a common purpose and who meet together. Brown states the word was used as early as the 5th Century B.C.:

I. (a) ekklesia, derived via ek-kaleo, which was used for the summons to the army to assemble, from kaleo, to call (–. Call). It is attested from Eur. and Hdt. onwards (5th cent. B.C.), and denotes in the usage of antiquity the popular assembly of the competent full citizens of the polis, city. It reached its greatest importance in the 5th cent, and met at regular intervals (in Athens about 30–40 times a year, elsewhere less frequently) and also in cases of urgency as an extra-ordinary ekklesia. Its sphere of competence included decisions on suggested changes in the law (which could only be effected by the council of the 400), on appointments to official positions and — at least in its heyday — on every important question of internal and external policy (contracts, treaties, war and peace, finance). To these was added in special cases (e.g. treason) the task of sitting in judgment, which as a rule fell to regular courts. The ekklesiaopened with prayers and sacrifices to the gods of the city.(3)
It should be noted that the word “ekklesia” was used to denote the meeting together of a special assembly. Brown further defines the word as to it political characteristics:

Thus ekklesia, centuries before the translation of the OT and the time of the NT, was clearly characterized as a political phenomenon, repeated according to certain rules and within a certain framework. It was the assembly of full citizens, functionally rooted in the constitution of the democracy, an assembly in which fundamental political and judicial decisions were taken.

. . . What is noteworthy, however, is that the word ekklesia, throughout the Gk. and Hel. areas, always retained its reference to the assembly of the polis. In only three exceptional cases was it used for the business meeting of a cultic guild (cf. H. Lietzmann, An die Korintlier, 9, 4). Otherwise it was never used for guilds or religious fellowships. These were referred to by such expressions as thiasos, cultic assembly to worship a god; lit, contract of partnership, but in this context a fellowship which held particular feasts (heorte), to which each participant contributed; koinon, lit, that which is in common (–. Fellowship, art. koinos); or synodos, which meant a group following the same –. way, i.e. the same teaching. Significantly, however, none of words found its way into the NT. (4)

Brown shows that the normal usage of the Greek word in New Testament times was understood to simply mean a called out or special assembly. The word does not seem to have been used to refer to secular fellowships in New Testament times. In the New Testament era, society used such words as thiasos and synagoge to denote fellowships. More particular Brown says that the word synagogewas used to denote the place of meetings.(5)

In the New Testament the word could refer to different kinds of assemblies with the context of the word or the use of a word modifier explaining who was meeting. For example, in Acts 2:47 the context of the verse tells who was meeting, “Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Acts 2:41 specifically identifies these people who were meeting as those who were saved on the day of Pentecost. Another example of a modifier being used to identify who was assembling is Acts 8:1 “And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem.” The assembly in this case was the believers in Jerusalem.

The English dictionary reveals that the English word “church” which is used in our English Bible is taken from the late Greek word “kyridakon” not”ekklesia.”(6) The Greek word “kyridakon” is not found in the New Testament and only came into being in the 16th Century long after New Testament times. Thus the English word “church” cannot be translated back into Greek because there is no word in the New Testament Greek that is the equivalent of the understanding of the English word. More will be said on this later.

    As stated earlier the word “ekklesia” in itself does not explain who is meeting, but only that a group is to assemble. The context of the passage tells you who is meeting. For example, the word “ekklesia,” is used in Acts 19:32,39,41 and demonstrates this word was used to refer to a civil assembly of local towns people of Ephesus which included idol makers. Acts 19:24-25 records that a man named Demetruis, a silversmith who made idols, called all workman of like occupation together for a meeting. The reason for the meeting was to discuss the problem that they were having with people who were being saved and who were abandoning their idols which was hindering their businesses. Verse 39 says, “the assembly was confused.” The word “assembly” is the Greek word “ekklesia” and is the same word that is translated elsewhere in the New Testament as “church.” Here the “ekklesia” was a meeting of idol makers and the word is properly translated “assembly.”

    Another example is found in Acts 7:38 which refers to the nation of Israel that was congregated at Mt. Sinai as the “church in the wilderness.” The word translated “church” is the Greek word “ekklesia.” It is incorrect to refer to Israel as a church and the word should be properly translated “assembly” or “congregation.” It is confusing to refer to the Nation of Israel as a church which could be misunderstood to support Amillennialism.

    In most places in the New Testament the word “ekklesia” refers to a local assembly of believers in Jesus Christ and should be accurately translated “assembly” or “congregation.” Brown states that the word is limited in use to a particular geographical location:

    The ekklesia has its location, existence and being with the definable geographical limits. The apostle thus writes of the ekklesia te ouse en Korintho, the church which is in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:2), indicating both that it belongs to the people of the place and that it has a new and different quality. This is also true when he speaks of the ekklesia Thessalonikeon (1 Thess.1:1:).(7)

    Brown recognizes that the word “ekklesia” made specific reference to a group meeting in a particular geographical location. This would doubtlessly preclude using the word to refer to a universal or invisible body of believers.

    Paul who used the word more frequently than any other New Testament writer clearly understood the word to mean an assembly or congregation who met locally together. Brown comments:

    Paul always understands ekklesia as the living, assembled congregation. This is expressed particularly in 1 Cor. 15 (vv. 4f., 12, 19, 23, 28). It is only in the meeting and living together of the members that love, described in 1 Cor. 13 as the supreme gift, can be made real, just as it is only in this way that the other God-given gifts can be recognized and

    The New Testament believers met in rented halls and in the homes of people. They had “elders” or bishops which were called of God and given the oversight of the local or individual congregations (Acts 20:28). A hierarchal church government outside the local assembly is not to be found in Pauline writings.

    Some conclude that the word can also apply in a limited manner to an invisible or universal church. The Arndt-Gingrich Greek-English Lexicon refers to two such uses. The first is to “the church universal” and uses Matt. 16:18, Acts 9:31, 1 Cor. 6:4, 12:28, Eph. 1:22, 3:10, 21, 5:23ff, 27, 29, 32 as New Testament references of such use.(9) However, it can be argued that Matthew 16:18 is referring to Christ founding the institution of local churches, not to the establishment of a universal church. Christ could have used other words but instead used the word “ekklesia” which limited the meaning to an assembly that comes together.

   In Acts 9:31, “ekklesia” is plural and is referring to local congregations geographically located “all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria.” In Revelation 2-3 Jesus addressing each of the seven churches in Asia concludes each message with statement “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” The word churches is plural meaning it was addressed to all the individual churches. If there was a universal church then Christ would used the singular word “church” which would have been responsible for correcting this issues in all the churches under it. However, by using the plural word clearly Jesus was making the point He was addressing individual churhces because He did not establish a one church system. 1 Corinthians 6:4 also refers specifically to the church at Corinth and has no application to churches outside that city. The context of 1 Corinthians 12:27-28, in particularly verse 27 “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” Note that verse 27 is a reference is to the “body of Christ” which is the correct term for all believers universally. The phrase “members in particular” seems to refer to membership in a local assembly, which would conclude that verse 28 is also referring to the local “ekklesia” and the believer would be a member. The same argument can be made for Ephesians’ passages to refer to local assemblies and not to a universal “assembly” (ekklesia) which would be impossible.

    Arndt-Gingrich assumes both a local and universal meaning for the word “ekklesia”:

The local as well as the universal church is more specif. called e. tou qeou or e. T. Cristou. This is essentially Pauline usage, and it serves to give the current Gk. Term its Christian coloring and thereby its special meng,:(10)

However, note the change in our understanding of the meaning of the phrase when “ekklesia” is translated correctly “assembly”: “the assembly of God” or “the assembly of Christ.” The word “ekklesia” has the specific meaning of an assembly or congregation and can only be interpreted to have a universal meaning by imposing the bias founded in our understanding by the use of the English word “church” which does have a universal meaning. If one uses the sound hermeneutic of a strict adherence to the usage of the word in New Testament times to an assembled body, there is no grounds for concluding that it refers to a universal assembly. What then does the Biblical word translated church really mean? It simply means an assembly of people. The New Testament knows nothing of using any formal word to refer exclusively to the assembly of believers.

    When the Bible was first translated into English the concept of a universal church was already in existence in the form of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches of that day. The word “church” was first used by Theodore Beza in 1556, a Protestant, who followed John Calvin at Geneva, Switzerland. As a Presbyterian, Beza believed in the idea of a catholic church and its hierarchal form of government and therefore chose to support this false concept by using the word “church” instead of “assembly.” The reason is obvious in that the use of the word “congregation” or “assembly” would not support his church’s hierarchical form of church government. William Whittingham’s Testament of 1557 followed Beza’s usage of “church” and was actually the first edition of the Geneva Bible and was a revision of the Tyndale New Testament.

    The first English Bible translated from Greek did not translate the word “ekklesia” as church. William Tyndale’s translation (1526) correctly used the term “congregation.” Tyndale completed the translation of the New Testament and part of the Old Testament before he was martyred. John Rogers, an assistant and friend of William Tyndale, completed the translation of the Old Testament using some work from Coverdale and published the first entire Tyndale Bible under the pen name “Thomas Matthew.” This Bible was called the Matthew’s Bible (1537) and also used the term “congregation.” The next English Bible, the Great Bible (1539), also used the term “congregation.” However, in 1557 the Geneva New Testament, produced by William Whittingham, was the first to translate “ekklesia” as “church.” It is important to note the Protestant source of this translation.

    Because the Geneva Bible was printed in Europe and not in England the English people desired a Bible published in their native country. This was the reason for the next English Bible, the Bishops Bible (1568) which was a revision of the Geneva Bible and this translation continued the use of the term “church” as has all subsequence English translations including the King James Version. This shows that the use of the word “church” instead of “assembly” or “congregation” came from those who had a bias towards a hierarchical and unscriptural form of church government. To have translated the word “ekklesia” accurately into “assembly” or congregation” would have exposed their form of church government as being in error.

Why Was the Word Church Used in the King James Bible?

Few people today know why the word “church” was used in the King James Bible instead of the word “assembly” or “congregation.” History clearly recorded that when King James authorized the translation of the Bible in 1611 he made 15 rules which the translators were bound to follow in making the translation. Edgar makes this observation of King James:

    He was not an inconsiderable literary figure, and his astounding knowledge of Scripture is reflected in his writings on political theory, poetry, theology, and the Bible. While not yet twenty years old he wrote a “Paraphrase on the Revelation of St. John.”

    James believed in the divine right of kings, and held that this right was hereditary, and that the king was responsible to God alone, and not to his subjects. As “Defender of the Faith” and head of the State church, he came into opposition with the Puritans on the one hand and the Catholics and their papal claims on the other. In his struggles with both he was motivated by a combination of religious and political considerations.(11)

    It was the Puritans who brought the matter to King James of making a new and more accurate translation. The Puritans were at odds on a number of doctrinal questions with the Anglican church and they favored the use of the word “ekklesia” being translated as church. This could have been the reason that King James, who was a devout Anglican and Protestant, insisted on restricting the translators in regard to the translation of old ecclesiastical words.

    Two of the rules which King James made mandatory affected the translation of the Greek word “ekklesia”:

Article 1. The ordinary Bible read in the Church, commonly called the Bishops Bible, to be followed, and as little altered as the truth of the original will permit.

Article 3. The old Ecclesiastical Words to be kept, viz. the Word Church not to be translated Congregation etc. (12)
The Bishop’s Bible was used as the immediate foundation for the King James Bible (1611) and used the term “church” instead of “congregation” and thus following the rule the translators continued to use the word church.

It is interesting to read the original Preface to the 1611 King James Bible which states their desire to correctly translate the Bible:

Another thing we think good to admonish thee of, gentle Reader, that we have not tied ourselves to an uniformity of phrasing, or to an identity of words, as some peradventure would wish that we had done, because they observe, that some learned men somewhere have been as exact as they could that way. Truly, that we might not vary from the sense of that which we had translated before, if the word signified the same thing in both places (for there be some words that be not of the same sense every where), we were especially careful, and made a conscience; according to our duty. But that we should express the same notion in the same particular word; as for example, if we translate the Hebrew or Greek word once by purpose, never to call itintent; if one where journeying, never travelling; if one where think, never suppose; if one where pain, never ache; if one where joy, never gladness, etc., thus to mince the matter, we thought to savour more of curiosity than wisdom, and that rather it would breed scorn in the atheist, than bring profit to the godly reader.(13)
The translators are to be commended on their excellent spirit of seeking to make the translation accurate, however, they were influenced by several important factors. These factors were; (1) The restrictions placed on them by King James. (2) They were all members of the Church of England which allowed no freedom of expression of concepts which were outside official church dogma. Surely the deaths of the martyrs who openly opposed the church was fresh on their minds. (3) There was financial considerations to be considered.(14)

What is the Significance of the New Testament’s use of the Word “Ekklesia?”

This has great and far reaching implications. First it means there is no biblical basis for a church hierarchy outside the local church or local assembly of believers. The only “ekklesia” the New Testament knows is a local assembly of believers. It could not be used in a universal sense referring to all believers everywhere or what some call the “universal” or “invisible”church. A universal church cannot meet in one place together and assemble, therefore the word cannot be used in referring to all believers of all time all over the world. The New Testament refers to believers universally only once. In Rev. 21:9, New Testament believers are not called a church, but “the bride of Christ.” At the Second Coming, there are no assemblies on earth because they are all Raptured, at the beginning of the Tribulation. At the Second Coming (Rev. 21:9), the body of Christ is seen coming with the Bridegroom to earth to reign with Him.

    Some conclude that the term “body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27, Eph. 4:1-6) refers to a universal church. In 1 Corinthians 12, the whole of the chapter is referring to the makeup and relationship of individual members of a local assembly using the analogy of the human body. In 1 Corinthians 12:13, the verse reads, “For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body.” This is referring to water baptism and is not referring to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an individual matter with the individual believer receiving the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at conversion. Water baptism is another matter. It is a public declaration of a born-again Christian, obeying the Lord and by baptism identifying with Christ and the local assembly of believers. Clearly, when a believer was baptized he was baptized into a local assembly(Acts. 2:41,47). A believer becomes a member of the local church when he identifies with Christ and the local church through his baptism. No believer is baptized into all churches worldwide. In Verse 24-25, Paul says the reason for this instruction was that there not be “any schism in the body” and “that the members should have the same care one for the other.” This phrase limits the body to a local church and precludes it referring to a “universal” or “invisible” church. It is beyond human ability to show care for the individual in a world wide church. The overseeing of all believers on earth is an individual thing done on a local level and is the sole responsibility of Christ Himself. Even if you ignored the context and preclude this is referring to the all believers, you must also equally conclude that the application of this verse can only be done on a local level and this verse is not teaching the concept of a universal church.

    Further evidence of the passage referring to a local assembly is found in Verse 26, which reads, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:26). Clearly this statement can not apply to a universal world wide church. Churches in Africa at this moment are suffering gross persecution, but the affects of it is not felt in America or other parts of the world. Yet, when a member of a local assembly suffers, others of that assembly know and share the burden for a brother in the Lord.

    Ephesians 4:1-6, clearly teaches the unity of the body of Christ, but as Elwell says, “Unity, however, does not demand uniformity. Indeed, from the beginning the church has manifested itself in many local churches (in Jerusalem, Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, etc.); and the one NT church had neither uniformity of worship nor structures, or even a uniform theology.”(15) In this passage the word church is not used and there is no exegetical reason to preclude this is referring to a universal church, but is rather referring to the “body of Christ” (see verse 12).

    If there is a “universal” church then why did not God give clear instruction as to its government. In the Bible, God always gave some degree of organization to everything he created. There is no reference or even hint of an organization of a “universal” church. The New Testament example of a church is always a local assemby overseen by one or more bishops. There is not one reference in the New Testament of a church being established under the authority of a pope, prophet, cardinal or anyone else.

    God clearly did not establish a hierarchical system of government over the churches (plural). Each church rules itself following the New Testament example and principles. God in Rev. 2:6, 15, said he “hated” the deeds of the Nicolaitanes who sought to set up a hierarchy to rule over the people. It would be against God’s very nature to sanction human government over a universal church as it would violate the autonomy of the local assembly of believers which He clearly established. The “ekklesia” that Christ established had organization. It met together, had pastors, it took the Lord Supper, it baptized new converts into its assembly, it supported missions, administered and edified the members of the church. A so called “universal” or “invisible” church can do none of these things.

    English readers in the 16th Century got their concept of the church from the established denominations (Roman Catholic or Protestant) which at that time all had a hierarchical form of government. Even the Puritans who favored the correct translation of the word “ekklesia” as congregation also had a hierarchical church government. It would be almost a hundred years before the Baptists churches would come into existence in England and later in America and establish a church structured on the biblical doctrine of the autonomy of the local church.

    It can be deduced that the use of the word “church” has helped foster the unbiblical concepts of a universal church and a hierarchical form of church government. The English word church means a variety of things including a building, a congregation, a worship service, a denomination , and was applied universally to all believers; whereas the Greek word “ekklesia” has a limited meaning of referring to a congregation of person assembled together in one geographical location for a specific purpose. This limited Greek definition of the word absolutely precludes the use of the word to refer to a universal church ruled by a hierarchy outside the local assembly.

    Another negative consequence of the use of the word church is that it supports ecumenicalism. Bringing together conservative and liberal Christian denominations with no regard for doctrinal differences under the guise of working together for the common good is a direct attack on the word of God. It waters down and makes obedience to God’s specific instructions a matter of personal choice, denies there are any absolutes, and ignores any consequences of disobeying God.

    This idea is especially devastating when applied to salvation and would have fatal consequences to those who embraces this false teaching that doctrine and the teachings of the Bible are subjective. To the believer the practice of ecumenicalism would be a serious hindrance to spiritual growth which is dependent living in obedience to God’s word.

    The false concept of a universal church is the foundation of the Roman Catholic Church’s hecetical teaching that it is the only true church and salvation can only be had through it. This completely distorts the New Testament doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. The use of the word church falsely lends support to this erroneous teaching. Correctly translating the word “ekklesia” as congregation or assembly properly defines the local assembly of believers and gives no support to the false idea of a ruling universal church headed by popes, prophets, or any governing body outside the local group.

    The strict definition of the Greek word dictates that the “ekklesia” is to be a local and autonomous congregation which reveals God’s program for the assembling of believers. It does not support any form of false doctrine and gives a proper biblical concept of the New Testament church. Sadly, the compromise of knowingly mistranslating the word “ekklesia” has continued the perpetration of false Catholic and Protestant teachings. We can be sympathetic to their situation; but the fact remains that the King James Bible translators and the translators in modern times have had the opportunity to correct this error, yet they failed to do so and contributed to muddying the waters and sadly have upheld a misconception of what a biblical New Testament church should be as the Lord Jesus Christ instituted it.


Baikie, James. The English Bible Its Story. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1928.
Bauer, Walter. Arndt W. F., Gingrich F. W. & Danker F. W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament                and   Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1979.
Brown, Colin. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. 3 vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.
Bruce F. F. The English Bible, A History of Translations. New York: Oxford, 1961
Edgar, Andrew. The Bibles of England. London: Paisley and Paternoster, 1884.
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984.
Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983.
Guden, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.
A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels. Edited by James Hastings. In vol. 1. New York: Scribner’s, 1909.
Lovett, M. A. The Printed English Bible 1525-1885. London: The Religious Tract Society, 1909.
Louw, Johannes P., Eugene A. Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. London: United Bible Societies, 1988.
MacGregor, Geddes. A Literary History of The Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 1968.
May, Herbert Gordon. Our English Bible in the Making. Philadephia: Westminister, 1952.
Moulton, W. F., The History of the English Bible. London: James Moulton and W. Fiddan Moulton, 1911.
Pattison, T. Harwood. The History of the English Bible. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1894.
Scott R., H. G. Liddell, A Greek-English Lexicon. Grand Rapids: Baker. ed. Henry Struart Johnes and Roderick McKensie, 1977.
Westcott, Brook Foss. A General View of the History of the English Bible. New York: MacMillan, 1927.

End Notes

1. Webster’s Universal College Dictionary  (New York: Gramercy,  1997),  p. 143.

2. R. Scott, and  H. G. Liddell, A Greek-English Lexicon (Grand Rapids: Baker), p.206.

3.  Colin Brown, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. 3 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), p. 291.

4. Brown,  pp. 291-292.

5. Brown,  p.292.

6.  Webster’s, p. 143.

7.  Brown, p. 299.

8. Brown, p. 300.

9. Walter Bauer, Arndt W. F., Gingrich F. W. & Danker F. W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature  (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1979), p. 240.
10.  Arndt-Gingrich, p.240.

11.  Herbert Gordon May, Our English Bible in the Making (Philadelphia: Westminister, 1952), p. 49-50.
12. James Baikie, The English Bible Its Story  (Lippincott: Philadelphia, 1928), pp. 273- 74.

13. F. F. Bruce, The English Bible, A History of Translations (New York: Oxford, 1961),  p. 104.

14. King James not only laid down the rules of translation but was also responsible for remunerating the translators for their work.   History records that James did not contribute to the cost of the translation, but encouraged the Anglican church to solicit funds for the translators.  However, during the time of their work they were poorly paid for their work.   However, King James delayed the appointment of new clergymen to vacant positions in the church until the work was completed.  When the translation was finished seven of the forty five translators were raised to episcopal dignity and fourteen were given other comfortable positions [Andrew Edgar. The Bibles of England (London: Paisley and Paternoster, 1884), p. 290.].   Surely this aspect of their works weighted upon their minds.

15. Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), p.232.* All Rights reserved. This article may be reprinted , copied and used as long as no charge is made or it is sold and the author’s given credit for the material.

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Bible Truth

Church, Congregation, Synagogue, or Called Ones?


Similar Meanings

“The Greek words synagoge (or synagogue) and ekklesia (often translated as congregation) have very similar meanings.
Synagogue means a gathering (syn = together, and ago = bring, or,
bring together), while ekklesia (ek = out of, klesia = call) means a calling out of. So, ekklesia doesn’t just mean called together, gathering, or church; it also implies a calling out… as from ‘the world,’ and always translating it as congregation (gathering) or church
(the gathered or the building of worship) can be very misleading.”


“It is interesting that in the Greek Septuagint translation, both words, synagogue and ekklesia are interspersed in the OT to describe the people of Israel.  The choice of the  words was probably up to the person who translated that portion of the Bible from Hebrew
into Greek. So the words, although different, must have originally been synonymous in the minds of the translators.”

Christ’s Ekklesia and The Church Compared

Richard Anthony


Actually, the scripture does tell us that believers in Christ worshipped in buildings. But it is not called “Church,” it is called a synagogue. The word “assembly” in James 2:2, and the word “congregation” in Acts 13:43, is translated from the Greek word sunagoge, which is translated as “synagogue” in all 56 other places that it appears in the New Testament books. Christ’s followers were still using synagogues. The phrase “assembling together” in Hebrews 10:25, and the phrase “gathering together” in 2 Thessalonians 2:1, is translated from the Greek word episunagoge, which is very interesting: . The prefix epi means “upon”, and the rest of this word is sunagoge, the exact same word used for synagogue everywhere else in the Bible. You see, the apostles were all still worshipping in synagogues! That is what scripture calls it; not Churches.

I am not saying we should go to synagogues today, but the proper name for a building of worship is synagogue, because that is the term scripture uses to describe a place of, and to worship God Almighty. The word “Church” is really from pagan origin. Besides, wherever two or three are gathered, that is where Christ will be in the midst of them.

Hebrew is helpful to understand Jesus

Hebrew is helpful to understand Jesus and His ministry. The people that Jesus ministered to and worked with were mostly Hebrew. Although Jesus would have known several languages, his primary language was Hebrew. Jesus used common rabbinical teaching methods in His teachings, such as the frequent use of the hyperbole like the illustration of having plank of wood or a “SPECK OF SAWDUST” in an eye Mt 7:3-5 (NI) or the suggestion of a camel going through the “EYE OF A NEEDLE” Mt 19:24 (NKJ).

Click here to see the biblical evidence that Jesus’ primary language was Hebrew.

Click here to see a list of some of the Hebrew Scriptures Jesus quoted.

Jesus says, “THIS CUP IS THE NEW COVENANT IN MY BLOOD; DO THIS, WHENEVER YOU DRINK IT, IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME” 1 Co 11:25 (NI). These words made sense to some of the Jewish people Jesus was speaking to, if not at the time, then later after His blood was shed at His crucifixion. Some understood that blood was important in a covenant between God and man. Some understood that a blood sacrifice offering of a lamb was normal in Abraham’s day (Ge 22:7-8) and at the time of the Passover (Ex 12:3-21) and in Temple worship (Lev 9:3). Some connected these facts when John the baptizer saw Jesus and referred to Him as, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29 NI). Unfortunately, many Jewish people did not understand as God complained about people who hear but do not “UNDERSTAND”(Is 6:9), including some Jewish followers of Jesus who subsequently stopped following Him after His comments about blood (Jn 6:53-66).

Understanding Jesus’ words

Most of Jesus words are easy to translate and understand. A few words may be confusing and difficult to understand and comparing different translations may help, if they are available. Some languages may have more accurate translations than those available in English. For accurate translations, intellectually ability and education and a good communication relationship with God and with His Son Jesus are all important, as both God and Jesus are still alive. The best way to understand what is in the bible is to use the bible to understand what is recorded in the bible. When Jesus words spoken in Hebrew were translated and recorded in Greek the only dictionary available was the Greek translation of the Hebrew bible, the Septuagint, which frequently used a single Greek word for several different Hebrew words.

Example, when Jesus says “FOR MANY ARE CALLED, BUT FEW ARE CHOSEN” (Mt 22:14 (NKJ), the word chosen may lead to confusion. The Greek word eklektos, which is, translated “chosen”, when we check it in the Septuagint and refer to the original Hebrew word for better understanding; we find eklektos is the Greek translation for over 20 different Hebrew words. For example, in Genesis 41:2 the Hebrew word bari, translated eklektos, refers to the “choice” cows; in Judges 20:16 the Hebrew word bachuwr, also translated eklektos, refers to“select” men or soldiers; in Isaiah 22:7 the Hebrew word mibchar, also translatedeklektos, refers to the “most beautiful” or “nicest” valleys; in Isaiah 43:20 the Hebrew word bachiyr, also translated eklektos, refers to God’s “chosen” people. Jesus was saying many are “called” but few are “choice, special, extra nice” or“chosen”. Many people “ARE CALLED, BUT FEW ARE SPECIAL”(Mt 22:14 (ET).

Another example is when Jesus said, “HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME WILL DO THE SAME THINGS THAT I DO. HE WILL DO EVEN GREATER THINGS THAN THESE BECAUSE I AM GOING TO THE FATHER” Jn 14:12 (IC). The word “GREATER” is confusing because what could be greater than all the miracles or works Jesus did? What can be greater than raising a person for the dead or walking on water or healing people of conditions from birth or being totally guided by God, etc. The Greek word , meizon, translated “greater”in English is used for over 24 Hebrew words in the Septuagint. One of the Hebrew words, gadol, that is translated as meizon in Greek and translated “greater” in English many times but just like in English we have words with more than one meaning, it is also is translated as more than I can bear” in Ge 4:13 (NI) and as“became more and more powerful” in Est 9:4 (NI). Doing “MORE” than Jesus did in His three years of ministry may be more accurate and more understandable than greater.

Another example of a confusing translation is when Jesus after describing the details or events of His second “COMING” states “THIS GENERATION WILL BY NO MEANS PASS AWAY TILL ALL THESE THINGS TAKE PLACE” in Mk 13:30 (NKJ). Obviously the Jewish generation of people Jesus was talking to almost two thousand years ago has passed away. The Greek word for generation, “genea”, is correctly translated from the Greek but it was used for ten Hebrew words when the Hebrew was translated to the Greek in the Septuagint. “Moledeth” is a Hebrew word found in Genesis 31:3 and 43:7 that is translated“genea” in the Greek and “relatives” in the English (NAS). “Mispachah” is another Hebrew word found in Jeremiah 8:3 and 10:25 that is translated “genea”in the Greek and “family” in the English (KJ). The Jewish people Jesus was talking to are a people group from the family or relatives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. A better understanding might be “THESE PEOPLE AND THEIR RELATIVES WILL BY NO MEANS PASS AWAY TILL ALL THESE THINGS TAKE PLACE” in Mk 13:30 (ET).

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