. . . fully after the LORD                  I Kings 11:6                      by Steve Flinchum

Chapter 3


    In The Christian Ecclesia, F.J.A. Hort wrote:

"Congregation" was the only rendering of ekklesia in the English New Testament as it stood throughout Henry VIII's reign, the substitution of "church" being due to the Genevan revisers; and it held its ground in the Bishop's Bible in no less primary a passage than Matt. XVI:18 till the Jacobean revision of 1611, which we call the Authorized Version.

    In 1526 William Tyndale was the first to translate the New Testament from the Greek into English. Tyndale translated ekklesia with "congregation."

    Myles Coverdale translated the entire Bible from the original languages, and it was printed in 1535. Coverdale translated ekklesia with "congregation."

    The Great Bible, first printed in 1538 and last in 1569, was known also as the Cromwell Bible, the Cranmer Bible, the Whitechurch Bible, and the Chained Bible. (A Brief History of English Bible Translations by Laurence M. Vance) That Bible also translated ekklesia with "congregation."

    In 1604 King James appointed fifty-four men to translate the Bible. Although it was resolved:

That a translation be made of the whole Bible, as consonant as can be to the original Hebrew and Greek . . . ,

two of the fifteen rules given the translators by King James stated:

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.

3. The Old Ecclesiastical Words to be kept, viz. the Word Church not to be translated Congregation &c. (A Brief History of English Bible Translations by Laurence M. Vance)

    When we use ekklesia, "assembly," or "congregation" in studying the New Testament, it removes a lot of the "hocus-pocus" and mysticism that man has concocted. I prefer the word "congregation," and have chosen to use it in the pages to follow. It is only when using the proper definition of ekklesia, as here given, that we can interpret the New Testament with true consistency. I realize that that will be considered by many as an unreasonably strong and bigoted statement, but I propose to support it shortly.

    Before continuing, it should also be noted that although ekklesia is properly translated "assembly" in Acts 19, it is not to be assumed that all occurrences of the word assembly in the King James Version of the New Testament is from ekklesia. There are two other occurrences of "assembly" in the King James Version of the New Testament. In Hebrews 12:23, "general assembly" is used to translate paneguris, which Strong's "Dictionary of the Greek Testament" defines as:

3831. paneguris; from 3956 and a der. of 58; a mass-meeting, i.e. (fig.) universal companionship . . .

Word number 3956 is defined:

3956. pas; including all the forms of declension; apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole . . .

    It is often taught that "the general assembly" and the "church of the firstborn," in Hebrews 12:23, are one and the same, but it looks to me like that there are two different words used there to speak of two different things.

    In its context, what is being said is, "ye are come unto . . . the general assembly and church of the firstborn." Let me make an illustration. I live in Annville, Kentucky, which is very rural. Suppose I have a new neighbor who is accustomed to the conveniences of a big city, and becomes discouraged in adapting to a strange environment. I might say to the person, "you have come to the commonwealth of Kentucky and the city of Annville, which are the best part of the world. By that statement, I do not mean that the commonwealth of Kentucky and the city of Annville are the same thing. You can be in Kentucky and not be in Annville, but you cannot be in the Annville that I am talking about and not be in Kentucky. A person can be saved by God's grace and not be a member of one of the Lord's congregations. The people being addressed in Hebrews 12, were being told in verse 23, that they were both. That "the firstborn," spoken of in this verse is Jesus, is seen by reference to Matthew 1:25, Luke 2:7, Romans 8:29, and Collosians 1:15 and 18.

    The other occurrence of "assembly" in the King James Version of the New Testament is in James 2:2. The Greek word translated there is sunagoge, which Strong's "Dictionary of the Greek Testament" defines as:

an assemblage of persons; spec. a Jewish "synagogue" (the meeting or the place) . . .

    A careful study of each of the occurrences of the word "church" in the King James Version of the New Testament, other than those already considered here, will reveal that there is no indication of a new or different meaning being given to ekklesia. In each of these cases, the word ekklesia was used to refer to a certain congregation (or congregations, using the plural form), or was used in a generic sense, and sometimes both.

    The last eighteen times ekklesia is used in the New Testament, it was spoken by Jesus. In Revelation 2:1 He was speaking of "the church of Ephesus," in verse 8 of "the church in Smyrna," in verse 12 of "the church in Pergamos," in verse 18 of "the church in Thyatira," in Revelation 3:1 of "the church in Sardis," in verse 7 of "the church in Philadelphia," and in verse 14 of "the church of the Laodiceans." In Revelation 1:11, He used the plural form in saying, "the seven churches which are in Asia," and then listed each of the names again.

    Jesus used ekklesia in its plural form in Revelation 1:20, 2:7, 11, 17, 23, 29, 3:6, 13, 22, and 22:16. It is important to notice that in the last half of the final chapter of the Bible (Revelation 22:16), Jesus used the plural form of ekklesia. If He had built a "universal church" He would not have used the plural form, and I believe He would have used some other word like paneguris.

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