Jollyblogger on 'Ekklesia'

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A common urban legend in evangelical circles (and probably elsewhere too) is that 'ekklesia' in the New Testament (the word usually translated as "church") means "called out ones". This is simply false. It means "assembly" or "congregation". Its etymology derives from the sense that you can call together or call forth a group of people to gather for a purpose, but its meaning in the time of the Hellenistic period, when the NT was written, is simply a group of people gathered together. The literal translation should be "gathering" rather than "called out ones". See Jollyblogger's recent post on this for more information, with some careful nuance about various ways this etymological fallacy can occur. Note carefully his point that this has some relevance to George Barna's "assembly that never assembles" movement. He also makes several other nice little points in the process.

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Not long ago, I wrote a post suggesting that the New Testament may have consciously made use of the language of Athenian democracy, especially in its usage of the words ekklesia and kerux. JollyBlogger has now posted on the etymological fallacy in our ... Read More

3 Comments

I like your comment over there about Locke :) If you can find it, Umberto Eco wrote a whole book about similar linguistic theories calles The Search for the Perfect Language. Eco details all sorts of bizarre theories of how language "should" work, most of which were developed in the 17th C. Locke was fairly late in that line (and esperanto much more so), but it was an idea floating around european thought at the time.

Your thoughts about ekklesia are right so far as they go. The question I have is how much of the (secular) Greek use we can/should assume was meant in the NT usage. Particularly as ekklesia was a word with a political refernce.

Also, my other big question was what Jesus intended the word to refer to in Matt 16. Maybe something to do with his redefinition of "temple" as his own body, and by extension (in pauline theology) the mystical members of that body?

Why not look to the LXX? I'm fairly sure it's the same word used for the assembled worshipers of the old covenant.

I don't see anything about the temple or his body in Matt 16. I think he's just saying that Peter will be foundational to those who will gather around him.

Thanks for the link and comments. As to Paul's comment, I don't think any of us are importing secular Greek usage into the NT usage. The notion of ekklesia as assembly is driven by the OT, and as Jeremy notes, the LXX in particular.

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